Day 5: Weaving and Temples

Saturday, December 03, 2016
Luang Prabang, Laos

Intrepid Trip notes: This Classic Laos adventure comes to an end today, and with no activities planned, you’re free until your transfer to the airport for your departure flight .

I had an extra booked in Luang Prabang because my other trip didn't start for another day so I chose to stay here rather than go to Bangkok early.

  • Today was a very special day. I had thought about it when I booked the weaving class but now I think I remember that Rosemary had taken a weaving course when she was here. I wonder if it was the same one. i don't know why I had a late start for breakfast. I think I may have played on the computer for a bit or just slept in but it was 7:15 am by the time I went to breakfast. First I stopped at the desk to check about my extra day. I should have done this at the beginning because the hotel is fully booked and my original booking was for a standard room which is smaller than the Intrepid room. Surprise, surprise! So, consequently, I had to move since they had someone coming in for the bigger room. They agreed to take my bags to the new room if I had them packed. So I rushed back to my room and threw things in bags until I had my original two plus an overflow daypack. Then I went to breakfast. I now only had one-half hour before I needed to leave to walk to the handicraft center to get my tuk-tuk to the weaving center. I made it. I saw Andrew at breakfast and we wished each other good journeys on the rest of our trips. Then I boogied down the street.

  • In my haste, I completely forgot about my receipt but they had record of my credit card payment so it all worked out. I waited for a bit and read my book that I brought. There was another woman waiting as well. Once we got on the tuk-tuk we spoke and introduced ourselves. Her name is Ianthy and she was from New Zealand working in Singapore. Once we got to the center and were having our tea, we were joined by another woman who was British and working in Vientiane with UNICEF. She happened to be staying at the center since they ran a guest house as well as the handicraft center.

  • Our guide, a young man named Oun who was from the far north of Laos on the Vietnam border where it gets cold, gave us a demonstration of the loom, showed us the two designs we could work on, and gave us some background. Our first task was to load some silk yarn onto to bobbbins. We got to select two colors and our master weavers OK'd our choices. They suggested a darker color for the background an a lighter for the design so it would show up better. The master weavers demonstrated the process with two bobbins and then we had to do two more. I found it a bit difficult to control the placement of the yarn on the bamboo bobbin and sometimes I felt as if my finger were burning from the heat of the motion. Next we watched as the weaver wove - sending the shuttle through the threads, alternating the left and right pedals to create the interweaving of the yarns.

  • When my turn came, I can't remember if I had trouble initially but I consistently had trouble threading the shuttle through going from left to right. I would miss the opening, throw the shuttle on the floor, et al. I was a mess. It took me a lot longer to do my weaving than the other two women. My poor master weaver was so patient with me - she guided the shuttle so many times. In the beginning, she also had to pull the threads on the ends so that they didn't stick out. I found that toward the end, I actually got better at that part and my ends would come in better. I still had trouble remembering to switch the pedals before I pushed the newly woven line in. There is a word for that but all I can remember now is the banging sound. I also would lose count of where I was. Despite all my misfortunes, I really enjoyed the experience and I love my finished product. I would never have believed that I could produce a placemat with a traditional Lao design all in a morning. OK, so mine took more than the morning. The guide and my master weaver Yai were exceptionally patient. Maybe the fact that I gave them a lot of good laughs helped!

When I was finally finished, Yai blocked my piece and rolled the strings to make them not unravel. Then I went to have lunch at their cafe. I joined the British woman and found out a bit about her experiences in Laos over the last year while she was working in Vientiane. She had an exceptionally nice looking mango mousse but I ordered the lemongrass stuffed with fish entree that came with steamed vegetables and sticky rice with a fresh lemon juice to drink. Everything was good too. Then Ianthy stopped by on her way back to town. I found a little museum to check out and went to their gift shop where I bought a few souvenir presents. Nothing as nice as my place mat of course.

  • When I was ready to go back, I just missed a tuk-tuk so I had to wait for it to come back. I had a chance to read more of my book. When the tuk-tuk came and we went back, I found that there was lots more to Luang Prabang than the parts that I have explored. I saw a familiar intersection not far from my hotel where I should have asked to get off but I didn't since I wasn't absolutely sure. Then I had to walk virtually the whole length of the main street back to my hotel. I wanted to hang the clothes I had washed in the am but had to stuff in my dry sack when I packed up. Than done - in my new room - I went out again at 4 pm with the intent of exploring some of the temples that I hadn't seen before. I must have visited 3 or 4 - at least all the ones directly off the main street - when the light was getting a bit dim. It is amazing how each vat has something different to see. I checked out some riverside restaurants along the Khan River but either there were no seats nearest to the water for a good view, or in one place they wouldn't just serve me wine. They want a full paying customer. So I bagged that Idea and vended my way through almost the entire night market once again. I debated getting another crepe; I decided not to. I stopped just before my hotel and got some coconut pancakes. They aren't bad but taste a bit greasy. They kind of go with the last of my Spanish cheeses and the Lao beer. I may or may not finish off my dried mango. I am trying to lighten my load since I added those souvenirs today.

  • So I got back a little past 6 pm and have uploaded my photos, blogged, eaten almost all of my dinner - such as it is. I can't decide whether to try to get on the internet in the lobby or not. I think there is too much competition at this time of day to make it worth it. Maybe tomorrow morning. I think I am in pretty good shape. I packed up quite a few only remains to stuff it into the bags.

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