Mekong’s handicrafts: art you can take home with you

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Lacquerware workshop in Bagan, Myanmar. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino

The arts and crafts of the Mekong Subregion countries are intertwined with religion, culture, and the abundant natural riches available locally: the natural pigments, textiles and precious metals come together to create unique works of the imagination.

They’re not just there to admire when you visit – you can buy some, and take them home with you.

In Thailand, visit the capital Bangkok for its wide-ranging collection of artisan shops and fair-trade stores, from Thonburi’s Khlong Bang Luang near the Bang Luang Market on the banks of the Chao Phraya River to artisans’ villages hidden along Bangkok’s scruffier areas, most notably the Ban Bat Community that has made alms bowls for Buddhist monks for the past two centuries.

In Cambodia, artisans have been hard at work even before the height of the Khmer Empire under Jayavarman II in the 800s AD. The country’s present-day community of artists still labor at their craft in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Battambang.

For affordable Khmer handicraft, visit Psah Chas (Old Market) and the Night Market in Siem Reap (although these tend towards mass-produced touristy souvenirs). For fair-trade, sustainable crafts sourced from local communities, you can visit shops in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh that include Artisans Angkor, Mekong Quilts and the Institute of Khmer Traditional Textiles.

In Yunnan, China, Lijiang Ancient Town is famous for a wide variety of traditional crafts, but Dongba paper products are some of the most in-demand products for tourists.

 

 

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