lady staff at Lanjia Lodge in a dress embellished with Hmong batik strips.

A young lady staff at Lanjia Lodge in a dress embellished with Hmong batik strips.

Last year, while I was vacationing in northern Thailand, I had a chance to visit Lanjia Lodge in Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai province, for 2 days. It was quite an enjoyable escape because it made me forget about the busy life in Bangkok. Recently, I have reviewed a photo album of that trip and found some pictures that reminded me of beautiful memories of friendly hill tribe people who took care of me during my short stay at this place.

Upon arrival, I was welcomed by a Hmong lady who would be the host during my stay.  The first thing caught my eyes was her dress. I thought it was a uniform provided by the lodge. Indeed, I found out later that she designed and made the dress by herself. It is cleverly designed with Hmong embroidery works and batik strips that make it look contemporary and unique yet maintain a touch of Hmong traditional costume.

Lanjia Lodge Batik class_4

Hmong batik class at Lanjia Lodge

The next morning, as I was wandering around the Hmong village near the lodge, I saw some young Hmong ladies sitting in front of their huts with pieces of cloth in their hands. I was told that they were practising embroidery and sewing skills in order to cut their own dresses for some spiritual ceremonies and also for her wedding costume. So, there’s no wonder how the staff at Lanjia Lodge could make such a beautiful dress for herself. Later that day, I had a chance to learn about batik making in a workshop arranged by the lodge and saw how the Hmong use batik and embroidery works to decorate their dresses. The instructor was a nice old Hmong lady dressed in a typical Hmong costume, which was totally different from the more fashionable dress of the young staff I saw the day before.  However, both styles looked fabulous.

Lanjia Lodge Batik class_3

Hmong batik patterns

Traditional dress of my Hmong instructor

Traditional dress of my Hmong instructor

I noticed that the patterns that were drawn on the batik or embroideries were inspired by nature and geometric forms.  They were in round shape, rectangle, square, triangle, etc.  These beautiful handworks were mostly used to embellish and make the dress.  However, I saw some bags that were made from the same design and fabric used on their dresses. Many of them looked quite good and unique. I was thinking that if they could use their skill to produce handicraft products, it would be a good source of income for their family or community.

The Hmong batik is unique and beautiful with specific characters. I believed that if they receive more training on the design, they could produce great stuffs and preserve this traditional arts.

Handmade handbag at the workshop

Handmade handbag at the workshop