March, 2012. A flight, an official meeting, a dusty bumpy 4WD drive, a guesthouse with a bare concrete floor and cold bucket shower...
We walk through a mostly pitch-dark town to the only
restaurant. It's 7pm and they are out of food. After negotiation, they
serve us sticky rice,
egg, salad leaves and a wad of mekong algae.
Afterwards, wandering back, we hear rhythmic twanging & see lights up ahead - a group of a dozen women on
their haunches in the fluorescent light, a cloud of carded cotton in
the middle of their tarp. They each hold a bow held sideways that they
put into a pile of cotton, then hit it with a piece of wood, the
vibration loosening up the fibres and sending them floating around in
There is a loom off to the side, and when we express a
bit of interest one of the wrinkled older ladies with a towel wrapped
around her head beetles off & brings back her weaving - carded,
spun, dyed and woven by hand. She names her price, and I feel like I should bargain - upwards. I buy a 2m length for $3.60, and she
kneels & presses the money to her forehead as she thanks me.