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Why Ban Saphai silk weaving village is special ?
The village is located on Don Kho, a small island in the Mekong river 15 kilometers upstream from Pakse. Most families that live in traditional Laos style houses on stilts are involved in traditional silk weaving and offer their wares for sale. Trips can be booked at Pakse travel agents.
It was settled by a group of families from Attapeu hundreds of years ago and today there are 44 families living on the island, officially making up a total population of 396. Their traditional Lao-style houses ring the island which can be easily circumnavigated in a couple of hours. The houses are all on stilts providing a cool space beneath where just about every family spends the day spinning thread and weaving fabric by hand -- when they aren't cultivating local crops of corn, watermelon and rice.
There are no cars on Don Kho and despite the advent of electricity it's easy to feel like you're stepping back to a more simple time. The 300 or so residents live in villages at either side of the 800m-wide island and farm rice in the centre.
What to explore at Ban Saphai silk weaving village?
Don Kho is a great place to experience a homestay. Just turn up on the island and say 'homestay' and the villagers will sort you out for 30,000K per bed, with a maximum of two people per house. Meals are taken with the host family and cost 20,000K. In our experience, the food is delicious. Activities offered by locals include Lao-style fishing trips and lessons in silk weaving.
Don Kho also has a community guesthouse at the edge of a sacred forest on the far side of the island. There's not much to separate it from a homestay; it's uber-basic and costs the same. The guesthouse is well-signposted from the boat landing (it's about a 700m walk).
The guys in the small tourist information centre near the boat pier in Ban Saphai speak some English and can phone ahead to arrange a bed and/or activities. This is part of the Ban Saphai Handicraft Centre, where there are a couple of stalls selling local weaving.
How to get to Ban Saphai silk weaving village?
To get here, head 17 kilometres north along the road to Vientiane. A Lao Tourism sign points the way at the turn off to the left and a road continues until you hit the water. There you can easily hook up with a very skinny traditional boat called a reua pai, fitted with a modern boat engine, to take you across to the island for 10,000 kip. Be careful getting in the boat -- they tend to tip over pretty easily. Once you reach the other side you'll be scrambling up a bamboo ladder built on the side of the embankment.
- Great place to stroll around