Wherever I travel, I always keep a look out for social enterprises. And when I was in Luang Prabang (Laos), I came by a fantastic social enterprise called the Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Centre.
Social enterprises are businesses that give back to the community – they work towards objectives that are beneficial to their surrounding community.
They can also be businesses that work to support and preserve local traditions and cultures. They can also be businesses that aim to educate not only the local community, but bring awareness to foreign visitors around local customs.
To me this is important, because it helps to contribute towards sustainable communities and economies.
About Ock Pop Tok
In 2000, Joanna (Jo) Smith and Veomanee (Veo) Douangdala founded Ock Pop Tok on the basis of practicing sustainable business principles and fair trade. This initiative helped to raise the profile of Laotian textile on a global scale, while most importantly, supporting, educating and empowering women through providing economic and leadership opportunities.
Ock Pop Tok means “East meets West,” which is fitting, because the business brings together a fusion of local Laotian techniques with some modern styles textiles.
Through the production of handmade textiles and crafts, Ock Pop Tok is providing opportunity for the locals to earn a sustainable income, as well as educating them in the art of textiles. And the outcome is the creation of high-quality fair trade products, which helps to keep traditional values of textile creation in Laos alive.
Ock Pop Tok not only run their Living Craft Centre (and several shops), but they also manage projects such as Village Weavers. The aim of Village Weavers is to work closely with provinces around Laos and help teach them the skills of textile production. This initiative creates thriving village enterprises, which are able to generate an income.
The Experience at Ock Pop Tok
For a unique experience during your stay in Luang Prabang, head to the Ock Pop Tok Living Center to learn more about Laotian textiles. They offer a free tuk tuk service from the city to their craft center, where you can do a free tour of the space.
The tour is educational and informative. They explain the process of crafting textile – how silk is produced, how colors are created naturally, the different styles of design, and the weaving process. Depending on the day and time, you will also get the chance to watch the women dye, weave and design, which is a great experience. It truly makes you appreciate all the time and effort it takes to produce each product.
All textiles produced at Ock Pop Tok is made using natural dyes with many ingredients grown on site. Colors can come from natural ingredients such as wood, roots, leaves and flowers. For instance, to create a vibrant yellow color, you can use turmeric root. If you are looking for a bright orange color, you mix the turmeric root with limestone.
The center also has its own restaurant, which serves lovely local Laotian food and has wonderful views of the Mekong. They serve breakfast and lunch daily from 8am to 5:30pm. We had a wonderful lunch with a beautiful selection of dishes, including roasted eggplant salad (this was my favorite!), vegetable tempura and lemongrass chicken roll.
Visiting Ock Pop Tok
The center offers a range of classes, which you can take to learn more about textiles. Classes start from about A$40 and there are about 10 different classes you can choose from. You will work closely with the local women who will teach you the skills needed during your class. Some classes run for a few hours and some will go over a few days – just take your pick.
In my opinion, what a better way to experience the Laotian culture than through learning how to produce textile. I only wish that I could have done a class, but there is always a next time.
The shop at Ock Pop Tok is delightful – such a beautiful range of products and I would have loved to take everything home. I appreciated that every product available in store displayed a label that shared who the designer was. Talk about supporting local.
And if you can’t get enough of Ock Pop Tok, you can even stay in their Mekong Villa, an intimate boutique guesthouse with 4 rooms.
To finish off this post, I’d like to leave you with this great video about Ock Pop Tok produced by the lovely Isabell Thrun from Join with Seams.
Join with seams at Ock Pop Tok / Luang Prabang – Laos 2015 from Isabell Thrun on Vimeo.
To find out more about Ock Pop Tok, head over to their website, where you can even purchase some of their wonderful products.
No compensation was received for this review. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office kindly sponsored my trip to Luang Prabang. All opinions remain my own.