Sop Jam is a small village in northern Laos. On the bank of the Nam Ou river and surrounded by limestone cliffs, the scenery couldn’t be more beautiful. Of course the only thing that could make such a setting even better in my eyes is textiles and that you will find aplenty in Sop Jam. Sop Jam is a weaving village with just about every home having a weaving loom in the front and a selection of hand woven textiles (mostly scarves) that the women of the household have woven for sale.
To get to Sop Jam, we took a boat up the Nam Ou river from Nong Khiaw, a quiet town in northern Laos that we really liked that is a 3-4 hour bus ride north of Luang Prabang. The bus ride wasn’t very pleasant (though it certainly could have been worse) but it was certainly worth it to be in the small town of Nong Khiaw and even more worth it to take a day trip up the river to visit tiny villages and stunning scenery.
The looms were set up like the looms I learned about in the weaving class I took in Luang Prabang and it was so exciting to recognize the components of the loom and understand how they were being used! No women were weaving when we came through town as it was the hottest part of the day, but I could see (and admire) WIPs on the looms.
Of course I bought several scarves. I would have bought one from every woman in the village if I could have! I was thrilled to get the chance to talk to the husband of a weaver in the village who spoke some English. His name is Pooey and his wife is La. He told us about his children and grandchildren and where they lived around Laos and what they did. La was watching her grandson for the day while one son was working at a rice field nearby. He asked where we lived and when we told him Seattle he ran into his house to get a photo album – it turns out that he and La had had homestay guests (many years ago, judging by the photos) that were from Seattle! Although Pooey was disappointed that we didn’t know his friends, I was able to tell him that I recognized the pictures of Seattle and it was really fun to find a shared connection.
Sidenote about La and Pooey: To my understanding, Laos are given not-terribly-flattering nicknames by their parents when they are very young babies in order to prevent evil spirits from getting jealous and stealing the otherwise beautiful babies. Although they have real names, people will often be known by their nicknames (especially to their friends and family) their whole life. La means “girl” and Pooey means “fat and lazy.”