Vientiane: The Textile Museum

A little way out of the city centre is a gem of a place called the Lao Textile Museum. This privately own and run museum is home to some of Vientiane's best examples of ancient traditional textiles. It's advisable to book before arriving but we stopped off on a chance visit one morning. 

Silk and cotton textile weaving in Laos is a time-old tradition that is still practised today throughout the country, using the same, hand-operated wooden looms. Techniques and patterns are passed down through generations and hold significant meanings between villages and ethnic tribes. 

Lao weaving is a laborious and intricate process that starts with a simple silk worm and progresses through to growing plants used in natural dyes and months at a creaky loom, all to make a single cloth.

eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-outside
eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-gate

The grounds of the Lao textile museumare quite big but the museum itself is housed in an old (over 100 years old, we're told) 2-storey, traditional, wooden Lao house. 

eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-house

On the ground floor of the museum are traditional looms and other machinery used over the last century. Our Lao guide is happy to hop on the looms and show us how to operate them; they are still in good working order. 

eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-loom
eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-weaving

There's both sitting and standing looms from different parts of the country, as well as different types of textiles and patterns for Laos's multitude of ethnic tribes.

eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-loom2
eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-kata

While the downstairs section is open to the elements, the upstairs is shuttered with big wooden doors and quite dark. Here, there are dozens of intricately woven garments, tapestries and textiles significant to different tribes and provinces. 

These textiles are mostly ceremonial and would have been made for occasions such as weddings. Each would take many months to make. Some pieces are quite old and delicate and have to be encased under glass.  

eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-wall-hanging
eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-garments
eatdrinklaos-vientiane-lao-textile-museum-skirt

Downstairs, you can also see the traditional dyeing process, from the plants to the clay urns that hold the different dyes. 

Altogether it's a fascinating insight into one of Laos' most interesting traditions. 

If you want to know more about the fascinating world of beautiful Lao textiles, check out my posts on Luang Prabang's Ock Pop Tok textile centre, Lao ethnic dress by province, dye your own Lao silk and cotton scarves, and where you can buy handmade Lao textiles in Vientiane.  

The Lao Textile Museum is about 3km from the Lao circus. It's open from 9am-4pm. Call +856 20 55 811 991