Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 7 Exploring Phonsavanh

Thought we’d take a wander round town to see what was there. Initial plan was to head out to Mulberries Silk Farm, have a look around and then grab a tuk tuk to some other places round town.

We set off in the right direction and came across the Phonsavanh markets. Lots of Hmong costumes for sale but sadly they appear to be moving from traditional materials (silk, cotton, indigo & other natural dyes) to modern materials like polyester satin in almost fluro colours so they were actually really gaudy. Beading & other decoration was with plastic beads and the garments sadly, lost all appeal

It seems I can now put pics in portrait but can't manage to move them to illustrate a particular bit of writing, so enjoy the pics and read on below.

We continued walking for ages only to discover we were about half way there so ended up catching a tuk tuk out to Mulberries and then were given a guided tour of their farm.

They have 45 hectares, 17 of which is under mulberry trees for feeding their silk worms. Several purpose built houses are for the hatching and feeding the silk worms, and other for the reeling, spinning, dyeing & weaving of the silk. Our lovely guide who spoke good English showed us all the plants in their garden that are used for natural dyes. Some I recognised like indigo, mangosteen, marigold, others were completely foreign but produced fantastic colours. They can produce over 100 different colours using the natural dyes they grow or collect on the farm.

They offer a homestay option where you can stay and learn all about sericulture, dyeing & weaving. If I ever decide to do a masters this is something I will seriously consider. I bought a beautiful scarf for 200,000kip –something similar in Sydney would probably be up towards $100.

Back into town and dropped off at the markets for a bit of a look. Typical Asian market, dry goods, fruit & veg section and the ‘butchers shop’ section which we did not investigate. We have been having these lovely little fried buns for breakfast, and saw a man making them. Scoops of thick batter into a 10 gallon cooking drum of oil over a fire – they puff up and float as they cook. Very yummy with jam in the morning. Must find out what they are called.

Lunch on the corner near our hotel and back for a nanny nap. Out again for dinner, this time we thought we’d try something out towards the Mixay Hotel so set off on foot. Trouble was that we’re here in low season and the maps are nowhere near accurate in terms of distances, so after passing Government House and seeing nothing that resembled restaurants (or even food stalls) doubled back and round towards the Vansana and Auberge Phouphadeng hotels. Very different part of town, quiet with rice paddies right up to the road. Pretty sunset too.

Dinner opposite the UXO survivors information centre and coffee at the Vangluon Café, where we’ve taken to going each day – it appears to be the only place in town with a real coffee machine – and it’s great. Speaking of UXO’s – the statistics are insane, between 2-3 million tons (yes that’s million tonnes) of bombs were dropped on this part of Laos by the Americans and it I am utterly incensed that from what I can see the Americans are not here cleaning up the mess they left. De-mining and bomb disposal appears to be being financed by the Germans, the French, the Japanese and of all people the Kiwis. In my mind the Yanks need to come back and help clean up the mess they left behind! OK rant over!

Tomorrow we have a trip to the Hmong market planned in the morning then a flight to Vientiane in the afternoon.
Cheers for now

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