As a popular destination for cultural travel, Southeast Asia lets few visitors depart its lands without a suitcase full of handicrafts and souvenirs. At the prices typically offered in street stalls and craft centres, local crafts are impossible for visitors to resist and these handicraft traditions are an important part of the region’s heritage.
While you can find handicrafts practically anywhere on the streets from Bagan to Bangkok and beyond, there’s one Luang Prabang handicraft destination in particular that we can’t recommend enough due to the quality of their offerings and the important work they do to support local artisans and preserve cultural heritage.
The Laos-based organisation Ock Pop Tok (www.ockpoptok.com) was created by women and continues to be run by women to preserve heritage Lao textiles and bring economic benefit to local artisans. Over the past 18 years, a small shop selling one woman’s assortment of textiles and garments has grown into a network of more than 78 artisans, three shopfronts, a cafe and various education programmes.
Now travellers can discover the textiles of Laos, crafted into clothing, handbags and home goods by women all over the country, at three distinct shops in Luang Prabang and online. These colourful and intricate fabrics represent the traditions of the country’s more than 15 different ethnic groups.
Though shopping here can be a bit pricier than haggling with your average street vendor, you can shop assured that, not only are you getting the finest of traditional crafts, but that the organization is committed to fair trade and ethical practices, channelling profits to where they will do the most good for the local communities. Supporting an organisation like Ock Pop Tok and taking home their beautiful art and designs also means preserving Lao’s regional and ethnic handicraft traditions for generations to come.
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