Last week we returned from a visit to Laos where we enjoyed catching up with old friends and acquaintances in the antiques business. We had the good fortune of finding several lovely antique silver bracelets, pendants, torques and earrings along with a stunning temple bell, a village gong, and a few opium weights in the style of Lanna Thai and northern Laos as well some silk textiles.
The Lao or Laotians are a welcoming and slow paced people and we always enjoy our time spent in their undeveloped but charming country. We noticed several changes in the capital, Vientiane; the development of the river bank and the restoration of the centuries old temple, Wat Si Saket., which is still in progress. There are also plans to relocate the shops in the old morning market or talart chow to an adjacent building which will be more in the style of Bangkok shopping malls. Locals and visitors alike are not convinced that these changes are necessarily for the best.
There was as expected both an appreciable decline in the number of authentic antiques available as well as a hike in the prices asked by local dealers. For years hill tribe peoples including the Hmong, Akha, Lisu, Lawa, Lahu and Shan have brought their old silver jewelry to the capital to sell, but the dealers tell us these visits have gone from a few visits a day 20 years ago, to once a month or so nowadays. The Shan and Hmong are well known for their silversmith skills and interesting tribal designs. The Hmong silversmiths favoured melted down French coins to work with, preferring the lustre and malleability of the silver. You can read more about the Hmong and their crafts in our article about our Hmong Collection.
As well as presenting here a small collection of the items that we acquired we have also included a few photos of the beautiful bronze Buddha images and temple embellishments from Wat Si Saket and Haw Pha Kaew, the former royal temple built in 1565 under the command of King Setthathirat.