Saa paper is made from the bark of Saa (or mulberry tree), and there are villages in Luang Prabang Laos that produce this special kind of paper. In particular, Ban Xang Khong is a handicraft village specialized in both silk weaving and Saa paper making, around 3km from Luang Prabang. The diversity and beauty of this paper product convince some travelers of the actual visit to the village.
Get to Luang Prabang to See How Laotians Make Saa Paper
Travel to Luang Prabang, people are recommended to find the Saa paper which is for writing and marking various special souvenirs. The ideal place to buy items made from Saa material is the night market in the old quarter of the city. The night market is often packed with various colorful booths of the silverware, silk items, handicrafts, etc. Besides, some delicate souls find it interesting to visit the cozy carts selling the traditional mulberry paper. There, you come to the beautiful and traditional world of various Saa-paper-made products, like the card names, photo albums, calendars, calligraphy pictures, storage tubes, folktale pictures, premium lanterns, lampshades, handkerchiefs, etc. Passing by the booths of the Laotians painters, you will be impressed by a variety of pictures that tell the Laos folktales and traditional beliefs. It’s great to watch and even record the process.
Explore how the Saa Paper is made in Ban Xang Khong
When touching the mulberry paper, you first feel it rough and thick, but very light and porous. The paper surface looks similar to the spider web that makes some of you curious about its production. And if you want to know, make a trip to Ban Xang Khong which is a pretty famous traditional village in Luang Prabang that produces the Saa paper. Get into a souvenir shop and also the workshop that exhibits the souvenirs made from Saa paper, you can witness how the artisans make the sheet on the spot. From the first look, the paper making procedure looks quite simple, but when exploring into details, it turns to be very sophisticated.
To prepare for the materials, the artisans cut the mulberry trees (called “Saa” locally) into small parts, leave them dry, soak them, and steam them to extract the barks in the alkaline liquor. The bark of the mulberry tree is then pounded into powder by the stone mortar. To make a paper sheet, the artisans will soak a bamboo sieve (of various sizes) in the clear water basin, and spread a piece of silk at the bottom of the tray. They will stir the bark powder to make it available on the sieve. When getting the desired thickness, take the sieve out of the water and leave it dry in the sun. Each traditional Saa paper is left dry in the sieve, so it needs numerous separate sieves to make these sheets. On completion, people can put some leaves on the sieves to create patterns; this will enhance the aesthetic values of the product.
Not only does the charming UNESCO World Heritage City in Laos attract travelers for the antiquity, the Wat Xieng Thong, Pak Ou Caves, Kuang Si Waterfall, or Mount Phousi, but it also wins praises for the traditional village of making Saa paper from the mulberry bark. Particularly in Ban Xang Khong, the villagers have been producing various Saa items to serve the tourists. Some new colors are created to enhance the values of the Saa paper sheets which are for handwriting, drawing, and being cut and framed for various souvenirs. As creativity seems to be boundless in this Laos traditional village, the products made from the traditional Saa paper become more and more diverse, creative, and attractive that call for the international guests.
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