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Monday, December 2: Day 224 – Papermaking

Kop Jai Lai Lai means Thank you very much.

There is a bamboo bridge that is taken down before it gets washed away during the rainy monsoon season in June and July. It has just been reconstructed and ready for foot traffic in October.

We decide to go across it and eat a meal at the Blue Lagoon.

How unusual to see an insect menu. (Saylom says that the Lao eat everything except tourists.)

No, I didn’t order any insect dishes. The fresh fish sounded more appetizing.

The waiters here were so attentive that whenever I drank two sips of water, they would refill it. At the end of my meal I downed the whole glass and before I could put it down, they were on their way. I put my hand over it and said, “No.”

There are three tribes in Laos. Here are their names and a little about their language

  • Lao Loum – lowland. 100% Buddhist. They have a written and spoken language.
  • Lao Kang are Khmu. They have a spoken language but not a written language. They live in the middle lands. They are 50% Buddhist and 50% animists.
  • Lao Soumg have the Hmong dialect and are from the highlands. They have a written and oral language. They are 100% animists. They perform many animal sacrifices and have spirit houses.

In the cities, most people are Buddhists. In the villages, they are mostly animists.

In Laos, there are 48 ethnic groups. There used to be 64 before, but some were eliminated by fighting. And of those ethnic groups, there are 240 small minorities.

We were most interested in seeing the paper making process.

The bark (not the wood) of the Sa tree, which is related to the mulberry tree, is used for making paper.

They use the entire tree; the wood is used for fuel and the leaves to feed the pigs.

The bark is soaked and boiled for 10 to 24 hours. Any brown defects are removed and used for a type of embossing. Nothing is ever thrown out.

We went to Ban Xang Khong which is a village on the outskirts of Luang Prabang.

World Tourism Board awarded them the gold medal town twice in a program entitled One Product, One Village. People from the village can do everything. The government challenged the jack-of-all-trades villagers to pick one product to showcase to those traveling to the country. This village excelled in paper making.

Another village works in silk making. See the white eggs. Black eggs mean that a larvae is about to hatch. The larvae are then deposited in mulberry leaves.

We boarded our boat to travel further up the Mekong River. Do you see the elephants taking a bath?

We take the same route that the king would take to go on his annual pilgrimage to the Buddha Cave (Pac Ou Cave).

Many people come to the Royal Buddha cave to leave a statue of Buddha, especially during the water festival that takes place in April where they wash the Buddha statue.

Apparently, Buddhists are keen on the day of their birth. If one is born on a certain day of the week, there is a Buddha statue pose that corresponds to that day and has a specific meaning. When one brings a statue to the temple, they bring the Buddha pose of the day of their birth.

Monday – The Buddha has two palms held out in front which means peace.

Tuesday – The Buddha is lying down or reclining. It means rest or death. I prefer the former!

Wednesday – The Buddha is carrying a pot for alms.

Thursday – The Buddha is in a meditation position with crossed legs and hands in front. He is either under the banyon tree or with the seven headed Naga snake of the temple.

Friday – The Buddha is standing with arms crossed in front of the chest and signifies thinking.

Saturday is the same as Thursday but doesn’t have the banyon tree or Naga snakes.

Sunday – The Buddha is standing with straight arms crossed in front of his hips and means respect.

How many different ones can you see in the picture? And if it doesn’t fit any of these categories, I guess it is a generic Buddha, or you don’t know what day your birthday is!

Soon after we leave the cave, we stop at another village that specializes in rice wine making.

Sticky rice on the left and regular rice are fermented with the help of this plant.

Here are the jars in which they ferment for 7 days. The alcohol content is 15%.

When put through a distillation process, the resulting alcohol content is 55%.

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