A look around Luang Prabang reveals loads of clay lamps, pots, planters, jars, vases, ashtrays, animal figurines, charcoal barbecue grills, and other earthenware products. You’ll see them in hotels, homes, and peoples’ gardens wherever you look.
Do you want to see who makes them and how? Do you want to take a pottery class and learn from the masters? Head to “Pottery Village”, about 4 km from the Chompet Pier across the Mekong from the UNESCO World Heritage City.
The people in Ban Chan (Pottery) Village have been pumping out hand-made pottery for centuries, and still use their traditional methods today.
According to local history, the first Lao King held a huge celebration in Luang Prabang after winning a crucial 16th century battle. For the big party, he asked various villages to bring different items, depending on their area of expertise.
Pottery had long been a part of Ban Chan villagers’ lives. They made hai jars for holding water, rice wine and whisky, and fermented fish. So, the king requested Ban Chan bring clay pots. To this day, Ban Chan villagers continue to churn out earthenware products…and they are pros.
Visitors can easily follow this age-old process at Pottery Village. As you walk around the village, you’ll find what seems like an endless supply of clay in pits. Villagers dig out the clay, refine it, and mix it with water so they can work with it.
They may put it on a foot-powered wheel to throw a pot, or mold it by hand into a shape. They then use hand-made tools to decorate the surface of their pot or figurine, while it is still wet.
Next, the clay masters dry their work until it is hard and can easily be picked up. Meanwhile, everyone helps prepare the underground wood-fired kiln located at the far end of the village. This takes a lot of effort, and the entire village pitches in to heat up the kiln to the required temperature.
They must also maintain the fire for several days to ensure it remains at the correct temperature. Finally, they stack the dried pottery in the kiln, and fire the products for up to four days. They will also glaze it with colors if required.
The tour ends at the Ban Chan shop, where finished products are on display to view and purchase. You’ll find bowls of all sizes that you can use in the kitchen, pots for plants, lanterns molded in animal shapes, and knickknacks for your shelves or for gifts.
Plus, Lao Pottery House and tour operators can arrange classes for you to try your hand at this ancient art.
For more information on Ban Chan tours, contact Lao Pottery House
WhatsApp/Tel: +856 20 5224 4661
How to Get to Ban Chan Pottery Village
Lao Pottery House tours come with hotel transfers. FITs can take a bicycle or motorbike, and cross the Mekong to Chompet on the Xieng Mane Ferry. Then follow the main road, take the first left, and continue for about 4km. Ban Chan and the Lao Pottery House is in the left (see map). You can also hire a driver.
To find a certified LaoSafe business in Luang Prabang, click on the links below.
How to Get to Luang Prabang
*Note: Schedules are constantly changing. Please directly contact the transportation providers for the most current schedule.
Flights from Vientiane
Lao Airlines: Daily flights as of 1 July 2022
Lao Skyway: Four flights per week as of 1 July 2022
Direct Flights from Bangkok
Lao Airlines: Three flights per week as of 1 July 2022
Thai AirAsia: Three flights per week as of 1 July 2022
Train from Vientiane
Lao-China Railway: Three daily departures