Textiles, Temples and Festivals
June 17 – July 3, 2018
Go Behind-the-Scenes to a fabulous festival in little-known northern Thailand. See the superb UNESCO site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos. This is more than a textile tour, but there will be plenty of textiles: We’ll watch weavers at work, and learn how they tie and dye threads to create exquisite ikat patterned fabric in both silk and cotton. We travel in a big loop, seeing the best of all three countries — the most interesting textiles, architecture, archeology and culture — including three UNESCO World Heritage sites.
TRIP DETAILS: We’ll fly into Luang Prabang, Laos, on June 17, to see the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples, and you’ll have a free day to explore this laid-back and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance: we will spend the afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll make natural dyes and dye silk scarves, and also watch talented silk weavers. Ock Pop Tok also has a couple of excellent shops near our hotel. Dinner by the Mekong; see if you are brave enough to try the fermented water buffalo skin condiment! The fried river moss is actually delicious.
The local market is interesting, and there is an excellent new textile museum that we will enjoy. You can try shopping at the Night Market with all its handicrafts and art; although it is getting rather commercialized, there are still some interesting things to be found. Along with the magnificently decorated temples, a significant part of the old town’s appeal is the many French provincial style houses, the riverside location, and the tropical ambiance—Luang Prabang is a delightful place to relax and learn about Lao culture.
Then we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital of Laos – Vientiane – where we’ll visit the enormous textile/fabric market, and meet the weavers in a nearby weaving village with Laotian friends. We’ll also tour an innovative silk weaving studio, and see the the famous Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas. Later we cross the Mekong into Thailand, and continue southwest to a village known for its raucous and entertaining PHI TA KHON parade of fabulously masked dancers. Phi Ta Khon, means “Ghosts Following People,” and the celebration commemorates a joyful event in young Buddha’s life, as a prince. Dancers create sensational costumes and masks, and cavort with phallus-shaped swords, related to the fertility emphasis of the festival.
The masks are true works of art, taking some artists months to make from a hard, woody coconut palm tree sheath (the end of the big stem, where it attaches to the tree trunk), with a sticky rice basket stitched on top. Then the masks are carved and/or painted with great care in a traditionally ornate style, see photo above. Despite the many playful aspects of this two-day event, it also has very serious significance for the animist locals. You will see the Spirit Medium dressed in white, riding in the parade, and you’ll learn about the ceremonies, both Buddhist and animist that give meaning to the festival. This is sure to be a favorite part of the trip! While in the festival village, we stay at a beautiful country resort with infinity pool, owned by Cynthia’s friend, Neeracha.
After the festivities, we’ll drive south to Udon Thani, and then to the town of Ubon Ratchathani. Ubon is known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa, and we’ll visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are preparing for the event next month. Finally we head south to the O’Smach Border post, into Cambodia, to Siem Reap and the fabulous Khmer temples of Angkor Wat! A UNESCO Heritage site, Angkor Wat and the surrounding wats form a world-class temple complex, with sophisticated wall carvings. “Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia.
Stretching over some 400 km2, including the surrounding forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.” (UNESCO site info) We’ll stay 5 nights in this pretty hotel with pool (photo below) and have an optional hands-on cooking class to learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine. Our Farewell Dinner will include a performance of Phare, the Cambodian youth circus, no animals, and great acrobatics.
Includes 17 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (a couple of the hotels have a pool), all meals except three lunches and two dinners in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang on free days when group is scattered, all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, all in-country travel by private van with professional driver, three-days entrance fees at Angkor Wat, all transportation in the Park, entrance to the archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary, a Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap, the Phare Circus show and dinner, and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip!
Fly into Luang Prabang (LPQ) probably connecting in Bangkok, and home from Siem Reap (REP).
Not included: International airfare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry charges, luggage porter tips and between-meal snacks and drinks. A generous tip per person for the Angkor guide and the van driver(s) has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping!
Anyone who helps transport your bag should be tipped the local equivalent of $1 per bag.