Happy Birthday to me!

Sometimes things seem to just work out perfectly, without even trying. Beth realized her big birthday (one of those birthdays ending in an “0”) would fall soon after we arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos. What a great place to celebrate a birthday! Adding to the celebration, our New Zealand friends, Cliff and Ruth, would be joining us for a month, arriving in time for the big day.

In the many emails exchanged about what-to-do when we were together in Laos, it was clear Cliff and Joe wanted to do some cycling while Beth and Ruth planned to take a craft class at Ock Pop Tok and chose dyeing and weaving. A perfect plan for the actual day!

Ock Pop Tok’s mission is to “elevate the profile of Lao textiles and artisans, to increase economic opportunities for artisans, and facilitate creative and educational collaboration in Laos and worldwide.”

Ruth and Beth were given plain organic cotton scarves, ready for dyeing. The dye choices offered were all natural and native to Laos: indigo, teak, sappan tree, lemongrass, turmeric, annatto tree, and jackfruit. Looking at the sample dyed skeins, Beth and Ruth made their selections.

Beth cut the teak wood into small pieces, using a (scary and sharp) knife with a piece of hard wood as a mallet. (photo by Ruth)

Ruth tossed the wood splinters into the vat and gave a stir.

We were given the opportunity to create designs on our scarfs using techniques involving folds, applying wood blocks and rubber bands.

We donned rubber gloves and soaked our scarves for 10-15 minutes in the indigo dye vat. After pulling the scarves out, they were rinsed with water, the tie-dye rubber bands and wood blocks were removed, and the finished scarves were unfurled. “Nice enough,” we thought, wishing that, now that we knew how to do it, we could dye a second scarf.

Next up: weaving a silk mat. We each were introduced to a Lao instructor (with a translator nearby if we needed help communicating). We had chosen our silk colors and the specific Lao design we wanted for our mats.

Ock Pop Tok has open-air work spaces looking out to the Mekong River. Students were dyeing, spinning, and weaving in the same covered pavilion.

Ruth demonstrated the spinning technique where the thread spun quickly on to the spool. We needed to be barefoot to better control the speed with our feet.

The loom was intimidating! After some instruction those first rows took a long time, but with each new row the speed picked up.

We were rather amazed that we actually wove a very nice mat in just an afternoon’s time. Ruth and Beth both chose the gold color for their design that looked to them very “Lao”.

We left with our dyed scarves, woven silk mats, and a nice booklet from Ock Pop Tok explaining everything we’d done. What a perfect way to celebrate a birthday!


January 2018

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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13 Responses to Happy Birthday to me!

  1. Sounds like a great place and a great way to spend a momentous day. Happy bleated birthday, Beth! Anita 😎

  2. Annette Davey says:

    Sounds fantastic. What a way to spend a special birthday. Will watch Ock Pop Tok with interest as I play with wool and silk in felting at home.Thankyou, take care

  3. Ira Shorr says:

    Happy belated birthday!

  4. icelandpenny says:

    Happy Birthday, Beth! And now, please model your scarf for us…

  5. But you kept the whole birthday thing pretty quiet until too late in the day – we could have arranged a bit more of a celebration (well at least scoured Luang Prabang for a chocolate cake). Now we will have to wait another 10 years and meet you in some other challenging-to-get-too location (if there are any such places existing in another 10 years). It was a great way to celebrate a birthday.

  6. LuAnn says:

    Sounds like a wonderful way to spend a birthday!

  7. plaidcamper says:

    Happy Birthday! What a wonderfully colourful way to mark the day!

  8. What a great way to spend your birthday. I would enjoy that class too. This year, I’ll be having my birthday in Canada!

  9. Happy belated birthday, Beth.

  10. Dale Claypoole says:

    Happy 40th Beth — and what a delightful way to spend you birthday. But please, you left thousands of your readers anxiously awaiting word about Joe and Cliff’s bike ride. Was it all in Laos or did they continue on throughout SE Asia?
    Enjoyed your posts as always.

    • About that bike ride, Cliff wanted to go all the way to Siem Reap, but I insisted on being back in Luang Prabang for supper, so we turned around at Vientiane. 😉 Actually, just did a comfortable 15 km round trip out to see the grave site of Henri Mouhot, the French explorer who popularized (in the west) Angkor.

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