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Cambodia and Laos 2010: travel notes - Donna Lum

click on image to go to enlargement - all text & images Donna Lum

These personal travel notes, focused on textile shopping, have been made by Donna Lum following a short visit which she made to Cambodia and Laos in May 2010. Before she left she referred to the page on this website on textile related shopping in Laos plus additional information on the forum and promised to give feedback on her return.

Donna says that: "I was mostly sightseeing wats and museums but did make an effort to check out shopping opportunities! I didn’t do a complete canvas of all places so take what I say with a grain of salt! Shopping in Laos is a bit mind-numbing because there are so many shops all selling the same items! It seems every shop that says 'antique' really means 'tourist.'  I did not visit Erawan or Mr. Keomontree (no time) - see shopping in Laos.  The Vila Santi gift shop is the same as other hotel gift shops, and the Pansea Phou Vou is now the Orient Express Phou Vou, but they do still have a limited gift shop. 

A few years ago I went with the Jim Thompson foundation on a textile tour of Savanaket and Pakse, and saw wonderful textile villages, workshops, and markets with inexpensive and stunning textiles. Alas, I lost my notes in my piles of stuff at home.  The city of Savannaket is planning “Las Vegas in Laos”, (actual wording) so that shows you where they are going! 

Luang Prabang and Vientiane were actually disappointments in terms of shopping, but amazing for looking at Wats and Monks!

CAMBODIA: Siem Reap

Artisans d’Angkor is by far the most visible and high-end textile shopping in Siem Reap.  They produce lovely and expensive items with Cambodian themes and using local craftspeople. 

Night Market:  A hodgepodge of souvenir stalls but fun to look around.  Bring lots of small denomination US dollars! 

LAOS: Luang Prabang

On the grounds of one of the wats we bought cold drinks from a woman manning a small stall.  Excitingly, she was couching golden threads on a small piece of cloth!  It was nice to see people still doing this in a serene open atmosphere and not in a sweatshop, as I saw in other textile production places.  She didn’t speak any English so unfortunately  I don’t know if this was an item to be sold later or for her own use.  I did compensate her for taking photos! 

Caruso Lao Home Craft, also on Sakaline Rd.   Hong Kong designer Sandra Yuck owns this pricey but gorgeous shop.  The main shop in Vientiane - see below. www.carusolao.com  tel: 856-71-254574

Dang Market:  A small open air shopping complex with few textile vendors (mostly selling phones and shoes) but possibly worth a quick look after visiting the TAEC.

Mixay:  On the main downtown street, (Sakaline Road) on the same side as the museum.  Interesting and reasonably priced clothing, scarves and more.

Mulberries. Sells lovely organic silk and mulberry tea!  Madame Komally, who owns the shop and organic silk farm, was nominated for a Nobel prize a few years ago for her locally based  enterprise, which enables Lao village silk producers.  Location on the Mekong River road near the (excellent) L’Elephant restaurant.  tel: 071 254 594.  www.mulberries.org

Night Market.  The night market is convenient for souvenir shopping after a day of wat-watching, but don’t expect any high quality items, textiles or otherwise.  Most of the things for sale are needlework tote bags, bedding, t-shirts and silk (or mostly silk) scarves.   The hand-made paper paintings are sweet, though, and the vendors are very friendly.  They set up umbrellas and place their wares on mats on the ground, so prepare for some crouching.  Most vendors will loan you a small seat so you are more comfortable. 

Ock Pop Tok, also on Sakaline Rd.  One of the best quality shops in Laos, with another shop in Vientiane. Stunning weavings, with price tags to match, in combinations of traditional and contemporary motifs.  www.ockpoptok.com See a short article 'Weaving in Luang Prabang, Laos' by Louise Castellanon on attending a weaving workshop at the gallery.

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TEAC).  A small but informative museum just up the hill from Dang Market.  Exhibits and explanations of traditional costumes and rituals from several ethnic groups in Laos.  Very worthwhile visit.  www.taeclaos.org  tel:  071 253-364  entry:  20,000 kip

There are many small textile shops around the city, just walk around and have a look. 

LAOS: Vientiane

The capital city.  Near the river, which is the tourist area, are many small shops selling the exact same items. 

Caruso Lao, Ban Phiavath road, # 008 tel: 856-21-223644. Hong Kong designer Sandra Yuck owns this pricey but gorgeous shop. However, there are some close-outs in textiles, wood and sculpture.   This is the main shop but there is also a shop in Luang Prabang (see above). www.carusolao.com 

Kanchana.  Lovely shop with a huge selection of textiles.  Close to Wat Dam, a little hard to find.  The gracious owner, Bouavanh Phouminh,  also runs the Lao Textile Museum, which is a great place to visit. 

Lao Textile Museum is located out in the country, about a 20 minute ride out of town, at 151 Nongthatai Village, Have your driver call to get directions.   tel (856-21) 213 467.  In beautiful wooden houses Bouavanh Phouminh has exhibits of weaving and farming tools, old textiles, dying materials and more.  You can try your hand at weaving at a set up loom.  She is very well set up for group tours as well, and has some funding from Japanese and German foundations.  www.ibiss.co.jp/laomuseum/html   Well worth the time to visit.  Entrance fee:  30,000 kip

Mulberries.  021 263 371  .  Near the river on Nazim Road.  www.mulberries.org (They also have a silk production farm which is open for tours in ZiengKhouang) which is a few hours outside of Vientiane.  Monday – Saturday 8 am to 4 pm. 

Morning Market:  A misnomer as it’s evidently open until 4 pm.  A very large covered shopping center with very many textile and craft shops. 

81K Jpg - On the grounds of one of the wats In Luang Prabang, Laos, we bought cold drinks from a woman manning a small stall. Excitingly, she was couching golden threads on a small piece of cloth! It was nice to see people still doing this in a serene open atmosphere and not in a sweatshop. She didn’t speak any English so unfortunately I don’t know if this was an item to be sold later or for her own use. I did compensate her for taking photos!
to 89K Jpg - On the grounds of one of the wats In Luang Prabang, Laos, we bought cold drinks from a woman manning a small stall. Excitingly, she was couching golden threads on a small piece of cloth! It was nice to see people still doing this in a serene open atmosphere and not in a sweatshop. She didn’t speak any English so unfortunately I don’t know if this was an item to be sold later or for her own use. I did compensate her for taking photos!
to 83K Jpg - couching gold thread in the grounds of a wat in Luang Prabang, Laos
to 86K Jpg - Mme Bouavanh Phouminh, the owner of the Lao Textile Museum in Vientiane
to 88K Jpg - Display at the Lao Textile Museum in Vientiane
to 82K Jpg - Indigo growing at the Lao Texile Museum in Vientiane
See a map of Indochina
Click here for textile related shops in Laos
Click here for Laos country page

Donna Lum was originally from Hawaii but has lived in Indonesia since 1996 and deals in antiques and other crafts from Indonesia at the Kuluk Gallery in Bali. Her special interests are in textiles from throughout Southeast Asia. Contact Donna

click on image to go to enlargement - all text & images Donna Lum
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this page last updated 20 February, 2012