top of page

Textile Odyssey Tour to Vietnam and Cambodia 2015

Northern Vietnam (Oct. 17 – Oct. 31, 2015)

Cambodia (Oct. 31 – Nov. 8, 2015)

This tour takes us to the remote highlands of northern Vietnam, where a multitude of fascinating ethnic minorities continue to handcraft and wear their strikingly distinctive group dress. A delightful contrast to the homogenous western-style clothing worn almost everywhere else in the world, these outfits are indicative of ancient ways of living and unique world-views that still exist among these peoples. 

Elaborately embellished with tassels, fringe, braiding, beads, pom-poms, yarn boas, silver ornaments, and distinctive headdresses, ethnic dress represents the unique sense of aesthetics and artistry of each group. Painstakingly handcrafted with time-honored techniques such as indigo dyeing, calendaring, supplementary weft weaving, embroidery, and applique, these group costumes are not only markers of clan identity that maintain social structure, but are displays of textile skills that reflect the artisans’ patience and diligence—virtues that remain highly regarded.

Northern Vietnam (Oct. 17 – Oct. 31, 2015)

We meet in the charming and vibrant capitol city of Hanoi.  An enticingly exotic presence prevails here, where French and Chinese influences fuse with a sense of artistry that is uniquely Viet Kinh (Vietnam’s ethnic majority group.)  Our adventure to discover the highland peoples of northern Vietnam begins with visits to two of the finest ethnological museums in Southeast Asia, which will provide us with an illuminating introduction to the costumes and lifestyles of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam. As we make our way up to the highlands of Sapa and its surrounding areas, we’ll transverse through lush rural countryside with breathtaking karst landscapes. Traveling by private bus allows us the rare opportunity to explore towns and villages along the way.

Many of the ethnic groups we will be meeting--such as the Pathen, Flowery Hmong, White Hmong, Dzao Lantien, Tai Lue, "Dzao with White Trousers",etc. -- remain unknown to the majority of the outside world and well off the tourist track.  In small, out-of-the-way villages, we’ll visit artisans in their homes. As we view demonstrations of traditional textile processes such as intricate supplementary weft weaving, fine embroidery, applique, hand-spinning, and indigo dyeing, we’ll have the truly priceless opportunity to connect with these artisans as fellow textile appreciators and human beings.  

As part of Textile Odyssey’s commitment to provide one-of-a-kind tours which promote awareness of different cultures, we’ll explore the remote province of Ha Giang, a region that lies near the China border.  Here we’ll have the rare opportunity to visit a small village of the Flowery Lolo ethnic group and learn about their unique and colorful  group dress. We’ll also visit a White Hmong textile co-op in the area. 

Traveling onto the picturesque town of Sapa, once a French hill-station, we’ll walk to a Black Hmong village and observe their traditional textile techniques: twisting hemp fibers into yarn, weaving,, applying designs through batik and their unique embroidery techniques, and their method of calendaring cloth for creating the mesmerizing sheen on their indigo-dyed cloth.  We travel onward to Northwest Vietnam, where we meet Lao, Tai, and Muong and witness demonstrations of their supplementary weft weaving techniques.

This tour provides insights into the different ways of living that exist in areas that have only recently opened their door to outsiders.  We’ll enjoy visits to local markets where hundreds of ethnic minorities, dressed in their finest, gather for commerce and camaraderie. These settings allow us to quietly mingle amongst members of a variety of ethnic groups as they move about in the rhythm of their daily lives. 

As change slowly evolves, an intriguing juxtaposition of old ways exists along with the new. Dress and textiles—as indicators of history, continuity, change and politics--reflect the spirit of these communities. Ingenious adaptations of new elements to their ethnic dress allow many of these minorities to retain important cultural traditions and to continue to express pride in their group identity. This delightful twist to the usual path to modernity suggests the unique circumstances and will of the fascinating peoples of the highlands of northern Vietnam.

Extension tour to Cambodia (Oct. 31 – Nov. 8,  2015)

This optional extension tour is based on the resoundingly successful 2013 Textile Odyssey Tour to Cambodia. Flying from Hanoi to Siem Reap, we’ll visit the magnificent and unrivalled temple complex of Angkor Wat and explore a variety of silk weaving workshops, textile galleries, and textile shops in Cambodia. The revival of textile production along with new innovations in the market reflects a hope-filled recovery from the horrific devastation of this beautiful tropical country during the Pol Pot regime (1963 - 1997).

Traveling overland from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, we’ll have the opportunity to witness the life of the Cambodian people living in the countryside and small towns. We'll also observe textile processes in NGO cooperatives, both world renown and more recently founded, working to revive the textile traditions of Cambodia. Special hghlights of this Textile Odyssey tour include a newly founded textile museum, a lotus fiber cloth gallery, and a workshop preserving ancient brocade patterns of the royalty.


Among Cambodia's distinctive textile processes are its indigenous gold silk sericulture; stitch-resist; ikat silks known (chong kiet); religious pictorial ikats (pidan hol), used as ceremonial hangings;  weft ikats, once recognized as the best in the world;  and uneven twill-patterned silks (hol), a unique Khmer technique which creates a strikingly luscious sheen to the cloth.

In keeping with Textile Odyssey's  goals to provide unique, eco-friendly tours, we travel off the beaten path to rural villages recognized locally for their outstanding  textiles, including cotton weaving, traditional dress (sampol hol), luscious ikats  and stitch-resist ikats.  We'll also explore the fascinating evolution of this nation's textile industry as we visit a couple of high-fashion/ wearable art boutique shops on their way to establishing international recognition.

An additional bonus of our visit to Cambodia is the charming, beautifully decorated accommodations we'll be staying in. Beautiful, lush tropical gardens, fine handicrafts, and a gracious staff reflect the revival of the arts, aesthetics, and cultural richness of the Cambodian people.


It is possible to join just one segment of the tour – either Vietnam or Cambodia  - or join for both countries.


Contact for more information

bottom of page