Thursday morning, we went for an ox cart ride. It was a totally awful tourist trap rip-off, but we ended up there because of an unfortunate miscommunication. And that is all I have to say about that. We did get a few fun pictures though, so here they are:
After the ox cart ride, we went to tour a silk farm, which, for me, was one of the highlights of our trip. The farm is run by a non-profit that trains Cambodians in various trades in order to equip them with a livelihood. If you ever visit Siem Reap, don’t miss Angkor Silk Farm! The tour is 45 minutes long, with an up-close hands-on view of each step in the process. First, we were shown a field where the mulberry bushes are grown. Mulberry leaves are the silkworm’s only food. Next we saw baskets and trays of the tiny worms, eating their diet of mulberry leaves.
20% of the cocoons are allowed to hatch, to lay eggs for the next batch of silk. 80% of the cocoons are gathered and placed outside on a screen in the sunlight, to kill the worms inside. I think this process also dries and bleaches the cocoons somewhat in the sunlight, if I remember correctly.
In the next step, the cocoons are spooned into a pot of hot water, and a tool is used to prod around and find the start of each silk thread. These are gathered up and wound onto a spool, forming raw silk. The exterior silk is more rough and…for lack of a better word…raw looking. After that has been turned into thread, the cocoons go to the next step. At this point the cocoons are much smoother-looking, because all that is left is the higher-quality interior fine silk thread. That, too, is wound into thread, which is then dyed and woven into the finished product–silk cloth. We got to watch row after row of women working at looms, making beautiful scarves, wraps, and fabric. I wish I had better pictures of that step, but many of the ladies stopped their work to play with Clementine and pass her around.
Last but not least, we ended at the gift shop, which was chock-full of beautiful silk products.