In the morning, Joan brought me over to meet her host family, so I could watch the mother working at her loom. The father, meanwhile, was cutting tobacco up for drying. It was interesting to see them at work and get a sense of how they produced goods for the local markets.
It was a short trip to our next stop, scenic Vang Vieng. Karel and I elected to go swimming at a local swimming hole, The Blue Lagoon. It was peaceful and relaxing, the water was cool, and an onsite kitchen provided a tasty lunch.
Back in town, we strolled down to a nearby shop selling textiles. The shopkeeper spoke fairly good English, so I had an informative conversation with her about her wares. She had just finished spinning several kilos of silk thread, and showed me a large bag of colorful skeins. Most of the cloths hanging around the shop were fancy, embroidered pieces that she and her mother weave themselves on three looms which she had set up in the shop.
She sources the silk locally from farms in the hills near town, and colors the thread with dyes that her husband gets for her when he travels to the nearest big city. She can also make dyes from locally grown plants, but these colors and plainer fabrics don’t sell as well as the fancier ones.
If you needed a fabric turned into a garment, her sister provided basic tailoring services.
She had a whole cabinet full of old, traditional-style shoulder bags, mostly destined for recycling into other uses, I think. These were made of cotton dyed with indigo and other natural dyes.
In other words, this wasn’t just a store for dispensing souvenirs to tourists. She was sourcing raw materials; processing them; manufacturing high-quality finished goods for sale; collecting traditional, antique samples; and generating business up and down the supply chain. And of course, raising children and taking care of her family.
Profoundly impressed, I purchased several silk scarves. These people work so hard, they produce such high-quality goods, and they are exceptionally enterprising. Which makes me wonder, why are they poor? In a country like the US, these ingredients are usually enough to create material success. So here, something must be interfering, or draining away the wealth. It’s another mystery to unravel as we continue our travels.
On our way back to the hotel, we passed some locals who were playing a game like volleyball, but with their feet. I managed to get video of two wonderful points – those players were great! Be sure to watch the whole thing; it’s worth the wait.
Shane convinced the hotel staff to serve our breakfast on the balconies off our rooms, so we enjoyed the early light on the limestone karsts across the river, and watched a hot air balloon launch nearby. I had hoped that the morning light would make for a nice photograph of the karsts, but the sultry haze was thicker than ever. We finished our coffee, then headed off to our last stop in Laos.This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013