Shopping in Siem Reap

After yesterday’s long day of travel, we took it easy this morning by laying around in our air conditioned hotel room. We started planning our travel into Vietnam since we had to arrange visas before we arrived there. We also heard from our friends in Rochester, the Rosens, who were going to be in Italy in early April. We might be able to meet them in Venice for a day or two if we fly to Europe before then.

We finally left the comfort of our hotel room and caught a bus to visit a silk farm and workshop outside of town. The free tour was a bit rushed, but it was cool to see all the steps of the silk making process. First they raise silk worms by feeding them mulberry leaves. Then the cocoons are dried in the sun before being unraveled in hot water. It’s amazing to watch the ladies unraveling the cocoons and pulling the long fibers up into a single, thin thread. At this stage they also separate the outer “raw” silk of the cocoon from the inner “fine” silk fibers.

Mulberry trees at the silk farm

Mulberry trees at the silk farm

Those are silk worm eggs on sticky paper

Those are silk worm eggs on sticky paper

Tiny silk worms munching on mulberry

Tiny silk worms munching on mulberry

Slightly larger silk worms

Slightly larger silk worms

Silk cocoons drying in the sun

Silk cocoons drying in the sun

Cocoons go into hot water to be unraveled

Cocoons go into hot water to be unraveled

It's surprising how easily they unravel the cocoons

It’s surprising how easily they unravel the cocoons

The very fine silk fibers are combined into slightly larger threads and spooled up for later use. The next step is dyeing the fibers in patterns or in solid colors. Only after the fibers are dyed do they weave them into the final fabrics. A solid color fabric is easy to weave, but they also create intricate patterns with pre-dyed threads. Each individual thread must be carefully lined up as the weaving progresses. This means they can only complete several inches per day. The tour ended in a small museum, and in the shop where you can buy products made on-site. I bought Caroline a couple scarves she liked and we caught the bus back to town.

Combining many silk fibers into threads

Combining many silk fibers into threads

Samples of dyed silk strands

Samples of dyed silk strands

Preparing fibers for dyeing

Preparing fibers for dyeing

They create a pattern with plastic strips before dyeing

They create a pattern with plastic strips before dyeing

Weaving a solid color

Weaving a solid color

Weaving a patterned fabric

Weaving a patterned fabric

Threads used to make a pattern

Threads used to make a pattern

Lots of colors to choose from

Lots of colors to choose from

Examples of silk historical costumes

Examples of silk historical costumes

Carved head at Artisans d'Angkor

Carved head at Artisans d’Angkor

In town we walked around some other workshops run by the same organization of artisans. They had people making all kinds of paintings, metalwork and carvings of wood and stone. This organization, Artisans d’Angkor, had even made some replica carvings that were in place at the temples of Angkor Wat. These replicas were used in a few places where the original sculptures were missing.

Paintings in progress

Paintings in progress

Sculpture at Artisans d'Angkor

Sculpture at Artisans d’Angkor

 

We finished the day by walking around the touristy market area and practicing our haggling skills to buy some inexpensive silk scarves and a new dress for Caroline. It’s amusing at first to have the women in each stall (which are all selling nearly identical products) call out to us “Helloooo, you buy something?” or “You like? I make you good price!” But they’re all saying the same thing and we quickly grew tired and ready for a good night’s sleep. We’re getting up very early tomorrow to tour Angkor Wat by bike and we need our rest.

Colorful scarves at the market

Colorful scarves at the market

Caroline in the Siem Reap market

Caroline in the Siem Reap market

No end to the cheap items for sale

No end to the cheap items for sale

Time for a smoothie break!

Time for a smoothie break!

 

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