Crafty community shopping in Laos
Bringing home souvenirs is a wonderful way to keep your travel memories alive, but when shopping for precious mementos it's important to make responsible purchases. For example, be certain that products aren't made from endangered species and try to buy locally produced items. Intrepid's Carl Needham shares his tips on responsible shopping in Laos:
"When we go on holiday we all love to shop for souvenirs and handcrafted products. A really good way to support local communities and to put money back into the countries we visit is to buy handicrafts from local villages or cooperatives.
In Laos you'll find of the most exquisite silk and cotton weavings. The artistic techniques have been passed down from generation to generation and the patterns all have a meaning to the lives of the local people. One organisation that excels in spreading the income is Ock Pop Tok, or East Meets West. Based in Luang Prabang, this business provides a livelihood for over 200 families and is committed to fair trade practices. The centre also encourages visitors to learn more about Laos textiles and you can join in a weaving class that will give you an insight into Laos culture and the significance of weaving.
On the outskirts of Luang Prabang there are several other artisan villages. Ban Chan potter village produces a variety of clay pottery or visit the village of Had Hian to watch the traditional skills of the blacksmiths as they make household and farming tools. Remember when shopping at these places not to bargain too hard, because that 50 cents you save is a meal for the artisan and their family."