Saturday, 15 June 2013

Forgive me father, for I have sinhed.....

In Lao, the textiles industry is thriving, in part because the locals still wear traditional dress almost daily.

The "sinh" is a traditional Lao skirt made from a single panel of fabric which folds back on itself to be closed. You can pretty much judge a person by their sinh - natural or synthetic fibers, cotton or silk, the amount of needlework (some extend for the entire length of the sinh, very expensive).

My work sinhs - my fancy work sinh on the left is the most expensive, with them
dropping in cost from left to right
So when in Lao, do as the Lao do, and so I have bought myself a few dress sinh for formal occasions (silk, of course, and 1,500,000 LAK (~$200) cost before tailoring), and extra formal sinh (~$100 cost) and a number of work sinhs (~$100 for six sinhs, one of which is a slightly more formal work sinh- generally though it seems I have expensive taste!). Cost of tailoring in Vientiane is 100,000 LAK (they often start at 120,000 or 150,000, but you can barter down AND there are places there that do cheaper if you can find them. In Pakse, it costs around 50,000 LAK per sinh, no frills, I just got mine done for ~80,000 LAK each after she revised up from her original 50,000 for lining etc (I may have been taken for a ride, but I didn't really care at the time, I just wanted them done and she is known for doing good work).

So all in all I've spent about $500 on sinhs...whoops!

My formal sinh - I bought the whole outfit
straight off the mannequin!
Formal sinhs, at the top especially. Torneat tailors,
across from Lao Kitchen.
They specialise in using natural fibres and dyes.

The best thing is that I don't have to think too much about what to wear to work and the Lao people really take to you when you wear their national dress. They also are made just about perfectly to sit on a moto with modesty. And if you're after something uniquely Lao for a gift or souvenir, a sinh is perfect. You could definitely get them made into a gorgeous pencil skirt or the like, I can already see myself missing them when I finally leave in 17 months time!

Gavin and I in traditional dress for our formal
dinner with the Australia ambassador
and AVID/AYAD host organisations

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Eating our way through Vientiane

During our orientation in Vientiane we ate - a lot! I think we tried a good selection of restaurants, mostly westernised as we let our bodies adjust to the new food. ;Based on our eating experiences I can unequivocally recommend:

  • Lao Kitchen
  • La Terasse
  • Noor Indian Restaurant -The halal Indian restaurant right down on the main road on the Mekong
  • The Chinese dumpling place, also right down on the main road on the Mekong (although if you're sensitive to MSG maybe give it a miss - I'm not super sensitive and it affected me, but given how superb the food was I would almost consider it to be worth it!)
  • Sticky fingers - especially if you need a dose of home-style food
  • Joma cafe (there are two of these, I only know the one in town)
  • Benoni cafe (pretty much next door to Joma, in town)
  • Makphet
  • Noy's fruit heaven - BEST fruit shakes! Across from Lao Kitchen. If you want to pay a bit more you can get just what you want in a shake (Gavin's fave was mango and passionfruit- YUM!)
  • Amphone
  • La provincial
Interesting choices at a local Korean restaurant.....

I almost forgot - for the best Pho in Vientiane - Pho Dung! On the same street as Lao Kitchen - it's the closest you'll get to fast food, big steaming wonderful bowls brought out in a matter of seconds!