Laos, Cambodia & Thailand

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

 (New 2020 dates coming soon!)

The best SE Asian Textile Tour! You’ll be met in Bangkok on June 15 at the airport, and we’ll all fly home from Siem Reap (REP) on July 4.  More flight info later.

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.

Weaving with a complex system of pattern-keeping.

TRIP DETAILS: We’ll first go to the Phi Ta Khon Festival, in a little Thai village known for its raucous  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.

Dyeing with natural indigo.

Afterwards we’ll drive to Vientaine, Laos, then fly into Luang Prabang to see the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples, and you’ll be able  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.  Dinner by the Mekong; see if you are brave enough to try the spicy fermented water buffalo skin condiment! The fried river moss is delicious.

The local market is interesting, and nearby there is an excellent new textile museum and shop. 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 a Laotian friend. We’ll also tour an innovative silk weaving studio, and see the the famous Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas.

Angkor Temple-ROOTS

One of many overgrown temples at Angkor.

After Laos, we’ll drive south to Udon Thani, Thailand. Udon and our next few destinations are in Isaan or the northeastern part of Thailand. One article says, ‘Here is part of Thailand with all of the acclaimed Thai hospitality, culture, and food but none of the backpackers! Just south of the border with Laos, lies this entire region that has been little-visited  by outsiders. The area is rural Thailand at its best: farmland meets sleepy villages (and lots of textiles!). It’s proof that Thailand isn’t completely trodden with tourists.’

In Udon Thani we’ll visit delightful friends who dye natural cotton with natural indigo and use fermented fruits in the dye bath. We’ll see the entire process from tying and dyeing the weft, to weaving the cloth. Continuing south, we’ll visit the important ikat (mud-mee) silk weaving town of Chonnabot and marvel at the hundreds of  intricate, historical resist-dyed silk  in the Silk Museum there.

Cambodian silk weaver.

Next stop is the riverside town of Ubon Ratchathani, known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa. We’ll visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are preparing for the event next month; you can even make Buddhist merit by cutting around some of the wax shapes to decorate the floats! Then we head south by van, 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 program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.” (UNESCO site info)

Cambodia also has some of the most intricate silk weaving anywhere in the world. We’ll go out of town to visit the premier silkworm breeding and silk reeling facility, then watch the weavers here to see how different their techniques are from the Thai and Lao silk mat-mi artisans.

We’ll stay 5 nights in this lovely hotel in Siem Reap, with refreshing pool (above) and have an optional hands-on cooking class to learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine (similar to Thai). We’ll also visit a fascinating, large, commercial but relaxed silkworm breeding and reeling facility, and watch the weavers work. Our Farewell Dinner will be followed by a performance of Phare, the renowned Cambodian youth circus – no animals – but great acrobatics!

Supplementary weft piece of silk weaving, Laos.

TOUR COST: $4395   Single Supplement: $775
Minimum 6, maximum 12 travelers.

Includes 19 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 days when the group is scattered (we will suggest possible places to eat), all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, round-trip flights from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, all in-country travel by private van with professional driver, three days of 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 Bangkok, and home from Siem Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Sim Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap.

Not included: International airfare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, several meals as indicated on itinerary, 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!

Stack of wax decorations ready to adorn float figures.

Anyone who helps transport your bag should be tipped the local equivalent of about $1 per bag.