Colors in Thailand are ritualized--yellow for Monday, pink for Tuesday--or politicized--yellow shirts, red shirts, blue shirts--or polite--muted colors in subdued palates. I am always amazed when I see a photo of the oldest princess dressed in scarlet, which she often is (but then she did marry an American and lived for years in the states.) When I buy a present for my friend Usa, it is always brown or black if it's something to wear, and I am taken aback that Jessia, our housekeeper, often wears a turquoise tee shirt I gave her (but then she has lived in an American household for over a decade.) If it weren't for the blazing gold and red of Thai temples, I would be be starved for color in this kingdom.
But not in Laos. How is it that across a river lives a glowing, gleaming, exuberant, imaginative world of color? It's like trading in a small box of Crayolas for the deluxe 144 crayon pack and it brings me the same sort of joy that I felt as a child when Crayola taught me that there was turquoise and magenta and fuchsia and tangerine as well as ROYGBIV.
I could go broke in a heartbeat buying fabric in Laos--this time I confined myself to purchasing a few Hmong items embroidered with a story-cloth motif but it was difficult to be so restrained. Whether in an upscale silk shop or at the morning market, cloth in Laos is a riotous festival of creatively combined colors--the same sort of glorious tints that Hmong flower vendors place in bouquets at Seattle's Pike Place Market but in Laos they are unfading, immortalized in textiles.
The same brilliance is found in Laos temples--hues that never appear in their Thai counterparts--and the harmonious anarchy of colors other than red and gold delight my spirit and dazzle my imagination. When I look at the interior of a domed roof in Laos, I feel as though I have seen these tints before in my dreams, when I first was given a big box of Crayolas and began to realize the potential of a world of colors.