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Muang Vaen Textiles
We were not even aware of Muang Vaen until we got a copy of Lao-Tai Textiles: The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan by Patricia Cheesman and published by Studio Naenna Co in 2004. In her book Patricia says the Muang Vaen style textiles were ď delicately woven with fine silk yarns for the supplementaries showing the ground weave clearly [and was] on a trade route from Vietnam to Xam Nuea.Ē
The textiles woven at Muang Vaen are truly exceptional, exquisitely detailed, and highly sought after in the markets in Vientiane. The textiles we carry here at Laos Essential Artistry from Muang Vaen are all naturally dyed, with most using soft-hued colors, a style that has evolved only recently. Theyíre gorgeous and with the weight of these textiles being a little heavier than the traditional silk scarf they probably would fall more into a decorative/display category, though some are supple enough to use as a fashion accessory.
Although Muang Vaen is quite a bit off the beaten path, itís well worth the time to visit if you can, and we give it our highest rating of two looms-two cameras up approval! For textile lovers, photo enthusiasts and tourists just wanting to see a beautiful, traditional Lao village nestled in a valley along side the Nam Vaen River, itís like experiencing a little Shangri-La in LaosÖ.
So how do you get to Muang Vaen? The best thing to do is somehow get to Sam Neua first. This can best be done by flying Lao Air, a charter airline that has flights to Sam Neua on Monday or Wednesday. Itís a gamble flying into Sam Neua because being nestled in a mountain valley itís often fogged in, so if you donít want any uncertainty in your itinerary you might want to fly into Phonsavan and then hire a van to drive all day to Sam Neua. But if you can fly to Sam Neua you wonít be disappointed because not only will you be saving a lot of time with the one hour flight, the scenery is spectacular since youíre flying in a 10 seat Cessna Grand Caravan which flies much lower than the MA 60, the plane Lao Airlines uses.
Once in Sam Neua youíll need to hire a van to take you Muang Vaen. When arriving in Sam Neua there are a number of guest houses and we recommend the Khaem Xam Guest House close to the market and the Chittavanh restaurant nearby the Khaem Xam is the best place to eat. And it's here that you should talk with the owner, Phonchit, who also will drive tourists anywhere in Huaphan province. He doesn't speak English so you'll need an interpreter/guide, but without a doubt he's the best. And if you want to go to Muang Vaen, which is about a two hour drive, we would also recommend planning to stop and explore Ban Saleuy, which is about a one hour drive from Sam Neua and near the location where you turn off onto a dirt road to drive another hour to Muang Vaen. The dirt road is easily passable during the dry season, but during the rainy season often times the road is impassable. Itís best to make it a whole day adventure. You will not be disappointed!