Visit To A Lao Village

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Photos by MJ Klein

On the way to visiting a Lao village, our guide told us that the trucks carrying huge logs were on their way to Vietnam.

Visit To A Lao Village

We saw quite a few of these over-loaded logging trucks on the road that day.

Visit To A Lao Village

We arrived at the small Lao village and took this path from the road.

Visit To A Lao Village

This is a store beside the path.

Visit To A Lao Village

One of the animal pens used in the village.

Visit To A Lao Village

Our guide (black shirt) is leading us up the path.  That’s Michael Cannon beside him, and Michael Turton in the orange shirt.

Visit To A Lao Village

This is another animal pen in the village.

Visit To A Lao Village

If your Mother ever told you that your room looks like a pig sty, this is what she was talking about.

Visit To A Lao Village

This is someone’s house.  Normally Lao houses are up on stilts, but in this village they seem to be built on the ground.

Visit To A Lao Village

Visit To A Lao Village

We spotted these kids.  It looked like they might be part of a school class.

Visit To A Lao Village

But when we approached them, we found out they were gambling with cards.

Visit To A Lao Village

This is the house we’re going to visit.

Visit To A Lao Village

Inside the house is dark.  There are no artificial lights inside.  Illumination is provided by keeping the door open.

Visit To A Lao Village

There was a smoldering fire going inside.  This filled the house with the smell of wood smoke.

Visit To A Lao Village

Visit To A Lao Village

This shot shows why the fire was going: the owner was smoking corn, which can be seen hanging from the low ceiling structure.

Visit To A Lao Village

The owner contemplates the foreign visitors to his home.

Visit To A Lao Village

This is a shot of the roof, above the ceiling superstructure.  The smoke went up to the top of the inside and filtered out through holes.

Visit To A Lao Village

These are the family’s cooking pots, all blackened by cooking over wood fires.  I have no idea what the basin with the twig if for.

Visit To A Lao Village

This is the far end of the house, near the second door.

Visit To A Lao Village

This is a shot above the ceiling superstructure at the far end of the house.  Notice the mosquito netting (blue).  The netting was hung over the bed.

Visit To A Lao Village

Michael Cannon took a seat near the home owner.

Visit To A Lao Village

The home owner broke out his bamboo bong….

Visit To A Lao Village

….took a piece of ember and lit up.  He was smoking Lao tobacco, a crudely processed blend he showed us.  The bong has water in the bottom that cools the smoke as the smoke bubbles up through it.

Visit To A Lao Village

Dogs – the bane of my existence, are everywhere in these small villages.

Visit To A Lao Village

This pig and her 4 suckling piglets were wandering around in the village.  Our guide told us that the wooden collar is to prevent the pig from getting into things it shouldn’t, such as someone’s garden.

Visit To A Lao Village

We took one last look at the village and headed back to our guide’s van.

Visit To A Lao Village

But across the street we noticed something going on.  We went to investigate.

Visit To A Lao Village

Some of the villagers were using this rig to squeeze juice from sugar cane.

Visit To A Lao Village

Twisting the cane helps put more pressure on the pieces and squeeze more out of them.

Visit To A Lao Village

Some of the local kids were pushing the boom around and providing the energy for the press.

Visit To A Lao Village

Michael Cannon looks on as the work progresses.

Visit To A Lao Village

The back of the press is to the right.  The pieces are fed in from the left and the juice is collected by a can on the left.

Visit To A Lao Village

Visit To A Lao Village

Before long, Michael Cannon joined in on the boom.

Visit To A Lao Village

The village women really liked that!  The fed more and more pieces into the press, knowing that there was more power available.

Visit To A Lao Village

Notice the black bucket catching the juice.  There is a slot in the frame and a hole in the back where the juice runs out.

Visit To A Lao Village

Visit To A Lao Village

There is quite a bit of the white juice running down the rollers.

Visit To A Lao Village

Visit To A Lao Village

Our guide gives Hui-chen a piece of sugar cane to chew.

Visit To A Lao Village

Visit To A Lao Village

She said it was good.  Of course we have sugar cane in Taiwan too, but for many tourists from around the world, coming to this village is probably their first taste of sugar cane.

After spending a few more minutes at the press, we said goodbye and headed to the next stop on our tour: Mulberries.

Mulberries

Mulberries is a complex where silk and mulberry tea is produced.

Mulberries

This is the mulberry grove.  The leaves feed the silkworms and are also sold dried, as tea.

Mulberries

Inside the building where the worms are housed, we saw silk cocoons being produced.

Mulberries

Mulberries

These are silk worms being fed mulberry leaves.

Mulberries

Closeup of some silk cocoons.

Mulberries

These are silkworm eggs.  Our guide told us that to start their operation, they bought silk worm eggs from Thailand.

Mulberries

These are moths, which are what comes of of the silk cocoons of course.  Silkworm moths cannot fly.  The group shown here is producing eggs.

Mulberries

What I did not know is that a silk cocoon is made up of a single thread of silk.  This single thread can be untangled and spooled if the cocoon is placed in hot water.  Here our guide shows us a simple machine for spooling the threads.

Mulberries

More simple machines for spooling silk thread.

Mulberries

These simple machines are run by hand.

Mulberries

This is an example of a powered machine for spooling silk thread.  We saw white and yellow silk being produced.

Mulberries

Once the silk is harvested from the cocoons it must be dyed.  This tree is used to produce red dye.

Mulberries

We visited the dyeing operation where they had various pots of different colors being prepared.

Mulberries

These women are preparing raw materials for a dye.

Mulberries

These 2 barrels contain the materials for blue and green dyes.

Mulberries

Each dye color is listed on a chart, along with samples.  The list of dyes is very comprehensive and has everything you could possibly imagine – all derived from plant or mineral materials.

Mulberries

This is a dye-producing mineral.

Mulberries

This is a list of some natural dye materials, such as turmeric vine.

Mulberries

Next, we saw the weave looms where the various color silks were woven into fabrics.

Mulberries

Some of the weaving operations were very complex and the patterns produced, intriguing.

Mulberries

There are no computers, or even motors to run these looms.  They are all operated by hand and the patterns are managed manually by the skillful operators.

Mulberries

This is our closing shot, of a beautiful silk pattern being produced on a hand loom.

Don’t miss our next installment.  We’re going back to Thailand, to Udon Thani!

Thank you for reading!  We hope you enjoyed our visit to a local Lao village.  We welcome your questions and comments.  Please feel free to retweet this article and leave your recommendations below.

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8 comments

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    1. hi Brunty. thanks for reading! yes, the fact that it’s a single thread flipped my wig too. i never really thought about it before. the person that figured out how to harvest the silk is one smart person! we had fun learning about silk making. i’d seen some silk material being woven in Thai villages but i never saw the harvesting or dyeing operations before. take care my friend.

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