On the road in Laos #2

Starting on this post today I realised it’s nearly a month ago since I actually visited this Kamu village! Oops! It’s just one of many which used to grow opium as its main source of income and now has government and external support to do something else.
In this particular village, the women create bags and purses from twine made from yaboi, banana or other tree bark. 

I’m not sure of the exact process but I think it involves washing or boiling the bark and beating it until it’s quite thin, and then twisting bits of it together. The women in the village were all sitting under one house chatting and working on the twine when we visited (check out their sinh, traditional skirts… aren’t they beautiful?). They use a kind of hook to “knit” a net which becomes a bag, or they can weave the material into fabric. Traditionally a Kamu man makes a bag and fills it with tempting things to present to his bride-to-be, but these days the women make the bags too.

One of the purposes of our visit was to develop products for the tourist market. Here’s Kommaly (on the left) chatting to the women about product ideas, with Mayphone, our guide from PMC Oudomxay behind the villagers. They kept working the whole time we were talking to them!

 PMC buys products from these villagers and others in the Udomxai area and sells them from their shop which is in the city area, although a city in Laos is quite different from a city as westerners would think of it! These are some of the yaboi bark bags.
 The men in the village make brooms from natural materials, although I never found out the name of the plant they use. In some areas I’ve driven through, you can see the plant used for bristles laid out all over the road to dry.
When we visited all the men and women were working under the house together.

As you’d know, I’m more interested in textiles than household goods like brooms, but I do like the challenge of dreaming up potential products from the materials that the villagers are already using. I suggested a few ideas to them, it will be interesting to see what happens!