Amongst all the beautiful temples, glittery Buddhas, warm hearted people and magnificent scenery is a very sad and little known everyday obstacle that the people of Laos have to deal with, that is unexploded bombs. Throughout the Vietnam war bombing missions by the US dropped…
Month: October 2017
I’ve been off line for a couple of days as I made the journey from Luang Prabang down to Vientiane on highway 13 through the mountains. I think it is approximately 350km long and was built by the French when they occupied Laos. Apparently if…
The Traditional Crafts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang is a very well laid out small museum with examples of traditional dress, and household objects for different people groups within Laos. The information is clear and presented well. This kind of place is a little…
Workshop number two was weaving using the traditional looms that Ock Pop Tok have in abundance. At the end of the morning dying session we chose two colours and left the thread with one of the weavers so they could get us started while we went off for a leisurely lunch. We were treated to home cooked Laos food a soup, salad, sticky rice and a chicken and onion dish, delicious. When I booked they took great care to write down the things I couldn’t eat as a coeliac and made sure all of the food was ok so I didn’t miss out on anything!
After lunch we had a demonstration of how to weave the plain area of which we needed to be twenty two centimetres. It took a while to get the coordination right but became quite quick once I got going.
Then I had to do three stripes four rows of each colour until I got to the complicated pattern in the middle.
A couple of the lovely weavers were overseeing what I was doing so I didn’t make a mistake. I’m not sure I can even describe the next bit succinctly. It requires patience, brain and physical stammer and is just hard. Having said that I was expertly guided through with very few mishaps! I was somewhat relieved when that bit was over and I could get back to plain again for another twenty two centimetres.
One of the most beautiful things I’d noticed the day before where the delicate white patterns woven loosely in white at the top of each ladies loom I had no idea what it was just that it had a ghostly presence. It turns out that these are the patterns for the weave on that loom and the delicately woven white panels are very practical and important, they are kind of the ghost pattern for what will emerge later.
Anyway here is my finished piece! Quite chuffed and am exhausted but in a good way. Thank you Ock Pop Tok for such a lovely and inspiring day. I can’t recommend this experience enough!
From Thailand I crossed the boarder into Laos which was very straight forward and didn’t take long. Immediately Laos seemed beautiful, almost greener some how than Thailand. From the boarder I headed to the Mekong to pick up a river cruise boat that takes two days to leisurely sail down the river towards Luang Prabang. I was so ready for a sit down for longer than half an hour and excited to have time to catch up on drawing and filling my sketchbook.
It is coming to the end of rainy/monsoon season and I’m guessing thats why the river resembles mud soup! We had a bit of a debate on the journey at how to best describe the colour, cafe latte was mentioned but I’ve settled on mud soup. Everything is so lush and green kind of rainforest. It would be interesting to come at the other end of the year and see the difference. Laos is very mountainous which makes for a very interesting g landscape as you float by. Plenty of trees of all sorts and crops of rice and corn squeezed in here and there at incredible angles up the sides of the mountains.
After about seven hours on the river we stopped for the night in a small town called Muang Pakbeng. This town seems to be the stop for everyone taking the boat to Luang Prabang and the town is steadily growing with people, buildings and wealth. There is evidence of new guest houses popping up around the town and it has quite a few cafe’s and restaurants along with a thriving market full of all sorts of very fresh produce grown around in the hills.
I had the total pleasure to stay in a wooden (I think mostly bamboo) hut for the night which looked out over the river total bliss apart from the very early start to re-join the boat and get on our way again.
So the second day was more of the same and time to reflect, sleep and draw. And I should say that both days we were cooked the most amazing local food for lunch by the family who own the boat and were looking after us so well (when they discovered I was coeliac the lovely lady cooked me some separate chicken and chopped chilli to avoid the soya sauce and remembered to do the same the next day and I was very grateful). About an hour or so before reaching Luang Prabang we stopped off at the Pak Ou Caves. Literally caves in a cliff face facing the river, one lower down and one a bit of a climb up windy stairs.
It was a very tranquil and serene place. I can imagine people coming here to pray and think away from everyday life. Apparently during the Vietnam war local people used the higher and larger cave to live in hiding away from danger, only coming outside to cook, quite a somber piece of information. There are literally hundreds of Buddhas all shapes sizes and materials which have been brought over probably a couple of hundred years or so.
And finally the caves were a fascinating place in my search for examples of wabi sabi. There were many many areas of beautiful patina’s showing something of the story of these caves, for example areas at the entrance to the top cave of thick soot left from the cooking of the people who were hiding out there in the Vietnam war. I have many images but I shan’t bother you with them all here are just a few.