WorldSchool Art Craft Culture

Worldschooling is a trendy topic, lots of us dream about taking time out for long term family travel, but our children’s education is often one of the first perceived barriers.  I guess worldschool is like home schooling but on the road? I don’t know, because our kids weren’t home schooled before, they went to an amazing Montessori school in New Zealand.  This trip was never about us being unhappy with their education and wanting to take them out of school.  We expect they’ll go back to regular schooling in the future.  But we are very confident that they will benefit from new experiences and knowledge that can’t necessarily be found in the classroom.

Almost 2 months ago I posted about how we are doing schooling while traveling, it was a popular post and people asked for more.  I’ve been noting down lots of stuff that we’ve been doing, and I have too much for one post, so this one is on theme of How to Learn about The Arts in Worldschool.  

We’ve been doing lots of art and craft activities, we’ve been to the theatre a few times and we’ve visited a number of artisan workshops, sometimes for lessons, sometimes just to watch.

10 ways to Worldschool Arts, Crafts and Culture

  1. Water Puppet Shows in Vietnam

Puppetry Art has existed in Vietnam for more than 1000 years on land and water.  Water puppetry is a highly respected art form in Vietnam and a key part of cultural life.  It is significant for the people that cultivate wet rice, and traditionally water puppetry was performed outside.  Music is an indispensable part of the show and creates the atmosphere. Although the entire show is in Vietnamese the tones of the voices and the clever music help you to understand the show.  We saw the famous Thang Long Water Puppet show in Hanoi and loved it. Tickets are 100,000VND, 60,000 VND for children.

Water puppets 3.jpg

The next day we visited the Museum of Ethnology where they have a small outdoor water puppet theatre. Tickets here are 90,000VND for adults, 70,000VND for children.

Water puppets 2

We stayed to watch their show and were able to have a turn trying to work the puppets afterwards.  We also got a brief behind the scenes look at the workings of the puppets backstage.

Water puppets 1

If you are visiting Hanoi you may want to think about whether you’d want to see 2 shows and if not weigh up the merits of the two.  At the museum it is an outdoor, daytime show and seats are much closer to the water.  You also get the opportunity to try the puppets afterwards.  The indoor theatre performance has a different but also good atmosphere.

2. Traditional Dance Show in Cambodia

This one hour show at the National Museum in Phnom Penh Cambodia was incredible.  A simple stage with a black background came alive with stunning costumes, music and dance. This is a polished and professional show, one of the best we’ve seen on this trip.  The show is presented by Cambodian Living Arts, a charity dedicated to the transformation of Cambodia through the arts and to keeping traditional arts alive.  More about this coming up in a special post about social enterprise and charities in Cambodia and Vietnam.


3. Traditional Folk Music in the Mekong Delta Vietnam

During our Mekong Delta Trip we visited a local village and heard traditional Vietnamese folk songs.  We were shown the different instruments they play and given an explanation of the meaning of their songs.

4. Pottery Village Hoi An

A few kms outside Hoi An is Thanh Ha, a traditional pottery village.  Pay a small fee to enter the village and you can wander around visiting the potters in their houses and studios.  Many will invite you in to try you hand at pottery.  There is no charge for this – it is included in your entry fee, but if you want to take your creation home you pay for the clay.  L and S tried the pottery wheel and building small animals from clay.

Pottery Wheel 1
Pottery Wheel at Thanh Ha Village

They also did painting of traditional terracotta masks.

5. Making Silk Lanterns in Hoi An

We were quite crafty in Hoi An.  This beautiful town is famous for its lanterns that hang everywhere in the streets and are lit at night.  So a logical activity in Hoi An is to have a go at making your own silk lantern.  This was a tricky business involving the frame, glue and silk fabric, getting the fabric to cover without wrinkles was challenging and frustrating!  But we got there in the end.

Silk lanterns 6
Making Silk Lanterns In Hoi An

Yes we are also carrying these in our cases.  Luckily they fold down a bit.

6. Painting Elephants in Chiang Mai

Elephant Parade

Read about our painting workshop at Elephant Parade here.

7. Silk Worms and Weaving

We’ve seen some beautiful silk in Asia, and have been lucky enough to see a loom in action a few times now.  L and S were trying to understand how silk comes from silk worms so we decided to go and see all the steps from the beginning at the Hoi An Silk Village.

At the Hoi An Silk Village you can see the Mulberry Silkworms and their cocoons constructed of silk thread.

We watched the extraction of the thread by boiling the cocoons in water and unwinding the thread.

Raw silk thread
Raw silk thread

Next we visited the weaving room where the handlooms are used to weave the boiled and dyed thread into fabrics.

And there you have it, beautiful silk fabrics.

Silk Village.jpg

8. Medieval Knife Making Workshop – Siem Reap

We booked this unique experience with Backstreet Academy.  This was more of a workshop for Paul and I, the kids were only allowed to watch as it is hot and dangerous work.  For this experience a guide took us to a traditional blacksmith workshop in Siem Reap. While we were there local people came to buy small axes or knifes for use in agriculture or in the kitchen, all the tools were made by hand.  One of the apprentices had the job of hand filing nails to sharpen their tips!  We each made a traditional knife by hand, with a lot of help from the Blacksmith and his apprentices!  You can read all about this experience here.

Knife Making 1
Medieval Knife Making in Siem Reap

9. Artisans Angkor – Siem Reap

Artisans Angkor is a social enterprise in Cambodia, they provide vocational training, support rural people to find work near their villages and work for the preservation of traditional Cambodian crafts and culture.  They have workshops in Siem Reap where you can visit and take a free guided tour to see all the different crafts. We saw wood and stone carving, jewellery, silver plating, copper work and silk painting. Their work is highly respected and they have been commissioned for a number of important restoration projects. L and S were able to have a brief try with some of the carving tools.

Artisans Angkor also has a silk farm you can visit.

10. Woodcarving – Ubud Bali

Having tried their hand with some carving tools in Siem Reap, L and S decided they wanted to do a carving class.  So we looked up wood carving with Backstreet Academy in Ubud, Bali.

This was more challenging than they expected but they came away happy with an owl and a turtle, after a lot of help from the carver.

The more we look, the more opportunities we see to learn while we travel.  In a few days we are doing a papermaking workshop, using recycled materials, with local artisans in a Balinese village.  So many things that we take for granted and purchase in supermarkets or department stores we see being made completely from scratch, by hand with no wasted resources.  Reduce, reuse, recycle are not just words here but a way of life and that is probably the most important lesson we have learnt in 12 weeks.






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