Ban Phanom near Luang Prabang
Ban Phanom is a village steeped in traditional textile making with all families in the village working their looms to provide goods for sale at the night markets. The woven products were once supplied to the royal family and weavers today use the same techniques and patterns, resulting in a distinctly old-fashioned look. Cotton and silk materials with a range of coloured threads are intertwined to produce a shimmering effect whilst silk is added to create a pattern.
Some of the families work from their own small workshops with the whole village operating as a co-operative supplying to a handful of manufacturers. Prices are open to negotiation and very affordable, you will need to bargain and expect not to pay the first price offered. In addition to shopping and enjoying a cultural experience, the area around Ban Phanom makes for a great place to take a bike ride and to explore some ancient remote temples.
Close to the Phon Phau Temple, the village of Ban Phanom makes a popular tourist stop and is similar to the villages of Luang Namtha and Sam Neua as there you can observe the female textile makers at work on their looms, dyeing and then weaving. Years ago Ban Phanom was the village of choice for royal textiles, with each reigning monarch continuing to use village weavers as their preferred suppliers.
The village itself is rich in history and offers a fantastic insight into an ancient art that is still very much alive today, thanks to tourism. Many sightseers visit the village, so it can get quite busy, especially when coaches arrive between 09:00 and 10:00, so avoid these times and you'll probably experience a much more relaxed trip. If you’re interested in buying some textiles as a souvenir then it’s definitely worth visiting here instead of buying at the night market.
How to get there: To get to Ban Phanom takes about 10 minutes by tuk tuk from the centre of Luang Prabang on the banks of the Nam Khan River. You can also make the trip by bike although be warned it is quite a hilly ride and only for experienced riders. A tuk tuk will cost in the region of 100,000 kip and this includes waiting time and the return journey. Tour companies also run excursions to the village and usually include a side visit to French explorer Henri Mouhout’s grave.