Just back from an amazing vintage hill tribe fabric hunt adventure in remote northern Laos. We travelled for days by local bus on a dirt road right up to the isolated wilds of mountainous northern Laos. The bus was totally over crowded by locals, hill tribe people, chickens and of course us. I don’t think the driver was right in the head, actually I’m sure he wasn’t. I think Freddy Krueger would have thought twice before getting involved in this crazy bus journey. We were lucky enough to get a little bit of ass space on the floor of the bus aisle. As it was a dirt road and it was monsoon the road just turned into a treacherous mud bath. A combination of the mud bath road and crazy driving resulted in the bus routinely veering off the road over steep ravines, nearly crashing into rice fields far below. We were the only passengers on the bus that seemed totally freaked out by this. Every time the bus veered off the road we’d totally shit ourselves and then all the passengers would happily get off the bus and help manoeuvre it back onto the mud track. This manoeuvring process involved the mental bus driver splitting the passengers into two groups and giving each group a rope. Each group then tied their rope to opposite ends of the bus and by pulling on the ropes in opposite directions we slowly shifted the bus back onto the muddy dirt track.
After one of the craziest and most dangerous bus journeys we’ve ever experienced we eventually reached a small town called Phongsali. We used this town as our base to explore this beautiful mountainous hill tribe region. This area is famous for its remote and isolated hill tribe ethnic groups. These hill tribe ethnic groups make the most intricate and colourful hand embroidered clothing and fabrics we’d ever seen. They like to eat large fried bamboo rats which didn’t look very appetising and tasted even worse. They also liked to drink a local homemade alcoholic drink called Lao Lao. They put absolutely everything imaginable into this drink. Basically if it moved it was thrown into the Lao Lao jar. I saw frogs, snakes, geckos, bear claws, scorpions all floating around in the Lao Lao jar. We also found out later that they are not the friendliest people we’d ever met especially after drinking too much Lao Lao. If you ever choose to go and visit them don’t get too insulted if you get spat on the odd time or snarled at. I think it’s their polite way of saying they don’t like strangers. Getting a photograph of these people proved hard as they hated getting their photograph taken. The women also tradionally go topless. That part of their culture my husband seemed to enjoy a little too much. Luckily enough or unluckily enough we managed to rent the only available motorbike. This was probably the crappiest motorbike in Laos. It had definitely seen better days however miraculously it worked and took us on James and The Giant Peach adventures. We dirt biked all over the region to remote villages and bought the most beautiful hand embroided vintage fabrics and clothing directly from these extremely interesting hill tribe people. Both the fabrics and meeting these amazing hill tribe people was a fantastic experience.
We will now be incorporating these memories and fabrics with the finest quality leather to make the most unique bags and boots you’ve ever seen. I think even the hill tribe people of northern Laos would be amazed at what we turned their beautiful fabrics into.
To see more amazing photos from this trip visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thai-Holy-Cow-products/166087863523707