CULTURAL ALCHEMY As a younger man, Thithpheng Maniphone was silversmith to Laos' royalty. These days, the 72-year-old master artisan is happy to let anybody buy his wares or watch him work. Banging hammers, hissing flames and puffing bellows greet visitors to his studio, as Thithpheng and his apprentices turn lumps of silver into intricately patterned bowls, goblets, knives, ceremonial swords and jewelry. "My work symbolizes life and Lao culture," says Thithpheng. You can find him in Luang Prabang's silversmith precinct, off Thanon Chao Fa Ngum.
PAPER CHASE It's almost impossible to leave Baan Khily empty-handed. This small shop on Thanon Sakkalin, tel: (856-71) 212-611, has resurrected the ancient Lao art of making saa paper—thick, textured cardlike sheets made from mulberry bark. Light shades and lamps in breathtakingly beautiful colors are the best-selling items, but there are also greeting cards and wall hangings on offer. Or take a 15-minute tuk tuk ride to Ban Sangkong, on the town's outskirts, where you can watch the paper being made.