Monday, November 2, 2009


We've now been in Phonsavan, Laos for two full days; it's small, quiet, and very friendly. Yesterday we decided to take it easy after our two days of traveling to get here. We went to the markets (of course) and wandered the main streets of the town. Last night, we went to the cafe across the street for a delicious BeerLao and met a group from the Ministry of (I think) Economy and Tourism, who are in town "studying" from Vientiane (the capitol of Laos). Two of the gentlemen spoke quite fluent English and struck up a conversation. Somehow, I also found myself sampling a salad made with green papaya and LOTS of HOT peppers that the Lao tourist dudes had the chef make for them. They were apparently baiting her to add more peppers and were most impressed that we ate at least some of what they offered us. This was possibly the hottest thing I've ever put in my mouth, and after several minutes of the burn creeping down my esophagus AND up into my sinuses, I thought my eardrums were going to burst into flames!
Today we got a map and walked to Mulberries silk farm, where we learned about the silk-making process start to finish. They do everything from growing the mulberry trees to weaving gorgeous fabrics. Our guide showed us the building where the silkworms eat and grow for many days before they begin spinning their cocoons. You can actually hear them munching on the mulberry leaves- it sounded like a low sizzling noise. While in this building, we also saw the cocoons, and depending on the species of worm, they are either pure white or a beautiful golden color. When I pulled on the edge of one (yes, the man told me I could) it looked like spun gold in the light. This facility brings people from the surrounding villages to teach them how to raise silkworms and process their own silk. We spoke with the woman who founded the organization 16 years ago, and her goal is to give people an avenue to earn a fair wage. They sell some of their finished goods through 10,000 Villages shops in the US and at their own stores in Vientiane and Louang Prabang. They are a certified fair trade organization, and her goal is to be certified organic soon. We took some cool photos of the farm and some year, we will upload them!
This afternoon, we went to the MAG office and watched the flim, Bombies, about the covert war in Laos and the ongoing effort to remove the millions of pieces of unexploded ordinance that the US dropped over 9 years. It was a sobering experience that made me ashamed of what our country did to the Lao people. People still die every year as a result of the cluster bombs we dropped 40 years ago. Huge sections of the countryside still cannot be used because of the danger of UXOs.
Tomorrow we go on a tour of the Plain of Jars and then on to Louang Prabang the next day (and we're paying the extra dollar each for the VIP bus!)

1 comment:

  1. I love the fair trade organizations. And i loved your description of silk-making. I heard and saw the process through your words. I am loving this (and also hating the terrible things our useless war left behind in Viet Nam.