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.
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.
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.
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.