Silks of the Mekong
09:28pm, Wednesday 28 September 2011
For the best part of two millennia, silks and spices were the currency of Asia and these treasures of popes and emirs and kings were carried to every far-flung corners of the globe by traders and pilgrims from Asia. Amazingly, it is still possible to buy silks today which are hand-woven using the same techniques as all those years past. It was the allure of such silks that recently drew our visitors, Meike and Stephan Dau, back to Southeast Asia.
Their interest in hand-woven silks goes back in 2005, when they spent an extended holiday in Asia and fell in love with the locally produced silks.
″Silk is so beautiful and intricate, it is like looking at a precious jewel, ″ says Meike. Indeed, with many pieces shot through with spun gold and lit up by the brilliant colours of the rainbow, anyone who takes the time to admire a beautiful piece of silk must feel the same.
Inspired by the local silks Meike and Stephan set up their own business Mekong Crafts and began importing hand woven silks and hand crafted papers into Germany.
″People in Germany are very familiar with handicrafts from Bali,″ explained Meike, ″but few people are aware of the beautiful products that come from Laos, Cambodia or Thailand.″
They buy silks from all these countries, following strict guidelines to ensure they help the local people and provide their customers with the best possible quality.
″All our silks are hand-woven, ″ said Stephan ″in every case we know their provenance. Even if we don't know the weavers by name, we know the managers and we visit the places where they produce the silk. We are therefore confident the weavers are well-paid, no kids do the weaving. In some cases, it even provides a livelihood for disabled people.″
Every country has their own style, he says, so they offer a selection from eachcountry. When they stayed at Faasai, they were delighted to discover that Faasai too had some beautiful silks for sale - hand-woven by the mother of our house manager Sula, who's name is Pin. She lives in Roi Et, where she breeds her own silk worms to spin the silk which feed on home-grown mulberry trees, just like the old days. Sula sells Pin's silks and those of her neighbours from the village in Roi Et. Mainly they weave traditional mudmee silk of Northeast Thailand, but they were happy to weave a batch of scarves for Meike and Stephan.
Back home in Germany, Meike and Stephan mainly sell the silks through word-of-mouth and at local handicraft fairs, They can also be contacted via their website Mekong Crafts.They admit it is quite a challenge to create an appreciation about these beautiful colourful woven gems from Southeast Asia.
″We come from an industrial area where people would rather buy a sausage than buy a silk,″ says Stephan. But the Daus are still very happy with their business, as it gives them an interest during their travels, is extremely pleasurable and and has enabled them to build up an expertise as silk buyers and connoisseurs. Most importantly they are pleased to be helping people from the villages earn a good living, many of whom are extremely poor.
From Faasai's point of view, it is a demonstration of the good hearts of our guests, who like to give something back when they are traveling.