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Sam Neua (Huaphan Province) Textiles
In the photo here the Tai Daeng woman from Ban Sop Hao , north of Sam Neua in Huaphan Province is wearing a sinh muk, characteristic of the Tai Daeng. Mary Connors in her book Lao Textiles and Traditions writes that “The sin muk is a difficult cloth to weave, incorporating not only supplementary weft but supplementary warp decoration, weft, and sometimes warp, mut mi. Only a master weaver can produce a finely woven sin muk.”
Of course we’re very much interested in textiles and any textile aficionado will consider a trip to Sam Neua, provincial capitol of Huaphan province, well worth the time (check out what we write about traveling to Sam Neua under our Muang Vaen section), especially if they also plan to visit Muang Vaen, Ban Saleuy and Sam Tai. Sam Neua is also perfect as a base for exploring nearby Vieng Xai, where the current government lived, worked and ran the war from inside caves deep in stunning karst limestone cliffs from 1964 to 1975. A number of these caves are open for visitors, so with an official guide you can see their stark living environments and the dark, damp conditions they had to put up with to avoid being bombed. If you want to understand the Lao psyche touring the Pathet Lao leader caves is a must…
Traveling north of Sam Neua up toward Xieng Kho, much of it alongside the Ma River, is interesting, but only in Ban Sop Hao will you probably find textiles for sale so it probably shouldn’t be a priority for most people.
When in Sam Neua we recommend staying at the Khaem Xam Guest House, right along side the Xam River and a hundred yards from the open air market. It’s not a fancy guest house, and is actually very simple, but in our extensive travels we have never found a guest house with hotter water than the Kheam Xam! And as far as restaurants go that cater to foreigners, there isn’t a lot of choice in this town and the most convenient and probably best eatery is the Chittavanh Restaurant about three "doors" down the road toward the market from the Khaem Xam Guest House. The owner Phonchit also is the person you should contact to rent his services to drive you to destinations like Sam Tai, Muang Vaen, etc. He's probably one of the most well-connected men in Houaphan Province and we've traveled extensively with him throughout Huaphan province and you're very safe with him. But he doesn't speak English so you'll need a guide or translator with you.