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Sometimes our trips take on a theme. On some occasions these themes are planned like the time we took a trip to China when we knew we were going to be eating dinner at Restaurant Guixi in Guiyang, capital city of Guizhou Province where Kung Pao Chicken is thought to have originated. For the entire 3-weeks of that visit to China, both before and after Guixi, whenever we saw Kung Pao Chicken on a menu we ordered it in a search to find the essential manifestation of that dish. For those interested; it’s Guixi.
Other times, without planning it we realize that we have fallen into a pattern of behavior and that’s what happened during our 2-week stay in Luang Prabang in October 2016. This one turned into the trip of the crafts classes.
As frequently mentioned on this website, my wife is an avid weaver of textiles and we often visit weaving villages and she loves to attend workshops in faraway places to learn new techniques. On previous visits to Luang Prabang she had taken several 1 and 2-day dye and weaving workshops at the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre and before we traveled on this trip, she had pre-booked a 3-day master weaving workshop.
While she was busy doing that I took advantage of our discovery of the Luang Prabang branch of Backstreet Academy. For those not familiar with the company they offer the opportunity to receive intimate, hands-on instruction from a master of his craft at very affordable
For my craft class, I chose to learn how to make a cross-bow suitable for hunting small game like squirrels and rabbits. I was driven to a small Hmong village on the outskirts of town where I sat beside a wood fire with an interpreter provided by Backstreet, 89 year old master craftsman Chai Song, his adult son and two other older men who smoked cigarettes and offered advice and encouragement. Step by step we created a weapon that was so effective that (to my great chagrin but not surprise) airport security took it away from me. I did make it home with the beautiful hand crafted arrows that the master gave me as a gift.
That experience was so rewarding that upon completion of my wife’s weaving workshop, she signed up with Backstreet Academy for a sewing class with a village seamstress and I took a course in making a hand carved wooden bowl from a craftsman who creates reproductions for the local museum.
There are Backstreet Academy branches in virtually every country and many cities of Southeast Asia and we plan to make it a part of all our future trips to the region. Prices will vary from city to city and by the class taken but all of our classes with Backstreet Academy in Luang Prabang ranged from $20-$28 per person.
Hmong batik class