Mar 14, 2008
|Got up this morning and walked over to meet Onuey at his little "mom and pop" type store.
There is no such thing as a department store here, only little shops and stalls. He drove us across the Nam Kong river to his little village. Here he is in the process of building a mulberry paper factory complete with a visitor center and a house for his father and his wife to stay in when they visited from Canada. He was really disappointed when they told him they wouldn't stay there and preferred a modern hotel in town instead.
In building this mulberry facility, Onuey hopes to show the Loa people how to keep the profits of the business here in Lao where the mulberry trees actually grow instead of Thailand. Until now, they would cut down the trees and remove the bark and ship it to Thailand to be processed into the beautiful, textured paper that is used to make books, lamps, fans and lots of other products. He hopes to get this going and as a profitable business for the locals.
It was interesting to watch the whole process from starting from mulberry tree bark, to boiling,pounding into pulp, to the framing screens , to adding real flowers and leaves , and drying out in the sun. Takes lots of hours to process and yet a beautiful lamp shade can be bought for about 85 cents. Almost makes you feel a little guilty buying them at that price, when you've seen all the work and sweat that goes into making one.
Next door we observed the Lao silk making process. It starts with hundreds of large white wiggly silk worm larva in a wicker basket. They feed them leaves and keep them out of the sun until they are ready to spin their prized cocoon of silk which is about the size of your thumb.
Then they unwind it and it produces a very long silk thread to supply their wooden hand weaving machines. It may take them several weeks to make one shawl or scarf that they can sell for a few bucks. For them, they are thrilled to have a job and some income.
Later, out on the Mekong,we visited a village called "whiskey village", that makes Mekong Whiskey sold in neat little wicker covered bottles. The words "firewater" and "moonshine" best describe the very strong brew they produced...will not be a threat to Jim Beam or Jack Daniels anytime soon. This village was across from a fishing village that used empty plastic bottles of various sizes and shapes to hold up its fishing nets.
We also had a chance to see the brand new and first of its kind cruise ship on the river.
During the wet season it can sail all the way to Thailand carrying maybe a hundred or so passengers in comfort in their staterooms. Until now, you had to get off at a village to spend the night during your river trip. We also stopped at Pak Ou caves accessible only by boat about an hour from LP. The Buddhist shrines were in the limestone caves in cliffs along the shore and are crammed with Buddha statues and people burning offerings.