April 7, 2014

Textile Trip 2014: Vientiane

I decided that I will start the story of my textile trip from the time I left home. I have seen so much and did so many things in those three weeks, it's hard to put it all into words. I took over 1500 photos in three weeks. The best way to share them is to group them in a few collages. 

Vientiane was the first stop on our trip. We stayed there three nights. Vientiane isn't the textile capital of Laos, but like all of Laotian cities there are small cottage industries for weaving in most households. We visited two weaving centres in Vientiane. I will tell you about them later in the post.

Sawasdee (pronounced Sawatdee because the letter 's' in the middle of a word in Thai is spoken as a 't') is a greeting word in Thai. It is also the name of the in-flight magazine for Thai International Airways that I flew on my first leg to meet up with my friends in Bangkok. I arrived in Bangkok early in the morning expecting to meet my friends in a couple of hours. I later learned that my friends' flight was delayed by 7 hours. I connected to wi-fi as soon as I got to Bangkok and found emails from Janine and Audley Travel telling me to proceed to Vientiane and they would meet me there later that day. You can plans as much as you like, but something are out of one's control! So best just to go with the flow and hope for the best.

I arrived in Vientiane at the expected time. I was met by Audley's guide Kam. He was friendly, gentle and lovely. He made me feel very welcome and relaxed. He took me to our hotel Ansara. Ansara is a boutique hotel in down town Vientiane. It was one of my favourite hotels in the whole of our trip. Next door to the hotel was a Buddhist temple, I could see it from the top of the stairs. I could see the monks going about their routine and activities. It scene was calm and peaceful and a welcome experience on the first day of the trip. 

I went for a walk in the neighbourhood around the hotel that afternoon before the rest of my friends arrived. I saw familiar items like the charcoal burners in the above photo. There was a pile of bamboo scaffolding and a shop front with an interesting Mondrian style stained glass doorway. I also found a few textile shops in the area. I could not wait to take my friends there when they arrived. I went to pick-up my friends that same evening and we were finally together to start the trip!

The next place we stayed at in Vientiane was a home stay at the La Residence Mandalay. It's a beautiful Laos/Thai style home that Gilles and Marie originally from France built over twenty years ago. The home is full of beautiful art work of the region. The house reminds me of The Jim Thomson House in Bangkok. We enjoyed the lovely hospitality of Gilles and Marie over the two days we stayed with them. It was a good welcome to the Vientiane experience.  

Later, a car picked us up to start sight seeing. Some of the places we planned to visit were closed because of Women's International Day, but Talat Sao market and all the shops were open. Apart from textiles there were antiques and collectible items everywhere for us to browse. Laos being a Buddhist country a lot of artefacts were related to Buddhism.

Talat Sao was packed with Laos textiles like clothing, silk sarongs, silk fabric and nick-knacks of every kind. Wow, if you are a textile lover you have to step back and take a deep breath before you enter the market. I didn't have anything pre-planned what I was looking for to bring home. I just enjoyed all the eye candy of colours and textures of the fabric. I got a few pieces of Hmong Indigo dyed fabric and some small purses. Remember that was only the first few days into our trip!

The next day we visited Mai Savanh to see the weavers from the north and south of the country. At Mai Savanh they raise silk worms, spin the yarns, dye it with natural indigo then weave it into fine silk. At Mai Savanh they weave fine silk scarves and silk to make into high fashion clothing. 

These are a collection of old braids displayed at a Mai Savanh showroom. These were for sale for a reasonable price. I only brought home the photo!

The next weaving/showroom was at Carol Cassidy's Lao Textiles. There were plenty to look at and  in the showroom to buy, but photography was not allowed so no free advertising for them! I managed to take a couple of photos outside in the yard of a man shaving bamboo to make the yarn winder. 

Next stop was the temple Ho Phra Keo (Emerald Buddha Museum). In the photo our guide is explaining the history of the Emerald Buddha for Janine, Cynthia and Kris before we enter the temple. 

Each stairway on the temple has dragons running the length of them with their heads at the entrance, guarding the temple

This is the main temple. It was still empty and quiet at that time of the morning before the tourist buses got there. 

One of the dragon hands was holding a fish. So much to see and take note of everything. You would need a full day to discover everything that was there.

Around the outside of the temple are full sized Buddhas sitting in different positions. It was quiet and peaceful!  I'm glad we woke up early to be there.

A small sala for passers by to rest. It's a common sight to see in Asia. Life is slow there, but there is a reason for that. It's very hot and humid all the year round, so they can't be running around at full speed like in the West. If they do, they would fall in a heap from the heat.

Another visit in Vientiane was Buddha Park.  It is also known as Xieng Khuan. This unusual park is filled with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. The quiet and tranquil setting along the Mekong River is a contrast to the slightly eccentric sculptures which were built in 1958 by a Laos shaman. The concrete sculptures are bizarre but intriguing, sitting majestically in the peaceful park. 

The last photo in this post is the Friendship Bridge crossing Mekong River between Thailand and Laos at Nong Khai on the Thai side and Vientiane on the Laotian side. The bridge was a gift from Australia government to Thailand and Laos. I had heard about this bridge from a friend who visited not too long ago. Even though I didn't get to cross it, I did go under it and stopped to take photo from underneath.  

What was the highlight for me in Vientiane? The highlight for me would be the markets; both Talat Sao and the night market. 

There are so many memories from the trip to share with you. Next post will be about Luang Prabang. I hope you enjoy it.

Until next time


Jeanie said...

How fascinating, Nat -- you're visiting a part of the world with which I am totally unfamiliar, so both the photos and your narrative reveal new things. I particularly love the photo of the ribbon spools. And oh, those colors!

Rachel said...

Your journey looks incredible! And those fabrics - my goodness! Can't wait to see more!

Needled Mom said...

It looks and sounds like an amazing trip. I loved seeing the photos that you are sharing with us, but I am sure it is only a small part of all the beautiful sights and experiences that you enjoyed.

deanna7trees said...

you are a great guide leading us through the photos and making us 'feel' your experience of actually being there. some fabulous images here. thank you.

Nifty Quilts said...

Thanks so much for sharing your trip! I'm looking forward to the next chapters.

Terry said...

A lovely start to your trip. The slower pace of life is reflected in your photos. Looking forwad to continuing the journey with you.

Fran├žoise said...

Thank you very much for sharing your adventure. I would like very much to visit that part of the world one day.
Looking forward to the next episode!

Nedra said...

Amazing start to your trip. I would have loved to see all of the textiles and the weaving. Thank you so much for sharing with us Nat.

karen said...

this sounds like a fascinating trip.....so far away too! Thank you for visiting my blog, I appreciate it....

Queen Of The Armchair aka Dzintra Stitcheries said...

Wow Natcwhat a trip to embark on...loving all the Buddhist related stuff! Those dragons are awesome!

Tracy said...

Sawasdee, Nat! VERY exciting to see/hear about your trip... see where you stayed, food, textiles, temples--everything! I dream of travel east one day! :o) Beautiful Buddhas... Look forward to the next leg of your trip! Happy Days ((HUGS))

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