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Doddie Householder

I just love the rattan twine and the banana wraps. I seriously think that food taste better wrapped in banana leaves (especially rice).


I love the way how easy they pack the vegetables at the market. It should be this way everywhere in the world. One day we (people of the Earth) will get drowned by plastic bags!!! I always take textile bags when I'm out shopping in the organic market in Budapest (Hungary).

The photos are amazing as always!



I've noticed these too, and think they're great, but have to say that Laos has the most roadside rubbish (mostly in the form of plastic bags) of any country I've seen in SE Asia...

Tracey@Tangled Noodle

I'd say I wish we'd see this in our supermarkets but chances are that instead of rattan or bamboo, the twine would be made of plastic! When we visited the Philippines recently, my mother handed me a cloth bag, asking that I use it as often as possible for shopping. Plastic bags are still ubiquitous (especially really thin ones that rip easily and therefore are discarded like tissue) but I did see an effort toward reusable bags.

Teri Y.

I agree that SE Asia is still pretty dependent on plastic. When you buy drinks from coffee shops and stalls, the vendors still package the drink in a small transparent plastic bag with a rafia string tied to one end for carrying purposes. It definitely amused the heck out of one American friend who was visiting Malaysia and Singapore. He kept thinking, "But wouldn't the drink spill out???"

A Bowl Of Mush

Ha! That's hilarious!!
I love this idea, its fantastic!


Lovely photos. The plastic-bag problem is also huge in Mexico City, where I live. You get bags for *everything*, even bananas and oranges. I bought cloth produce bags from reusablebag.com (had them shipped to family in the United States), and those work great. But sometimes I forget them, so lately I've started just piling all my produce -- bag-less, liberated, free! -- in my grocery tote. I wash everything when I get home and it's fine.

I think I may start bringing my own plastic bags (washed and reused), or small glass containers, for spices and nuts and things like that. All the vendors here are really amenable to not using plastic, if you give them another option.

Eleanor Hoh

I really like how they thread through like pieces of art but so functional. I remember in Hong Kong, they wrap veggies in newspaper tied with rattan. Keeps your veggies fresh and easy to hold with a finger. I reuse my plastic bags as garbage bags, I never buy them.

Love your new design, very National Geo look? Again, outstanding photos David.


Hi, I think that leafy green that you are not sure of is wild kangkung.

They grow wild near canals, paddy fields, usually near water.

Back in my kampung in Perak, we used to have kangkung goreng belachan quite often since they grow wild behind our house.


Doddie -- I agree. Especially food placed in the leaf when it's hot (sticky rice, noodles, etc.)

Thanks Zita. Happily consciousness abt this issue is rising in Asia.

Hi Austin - Oh, I'd say Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam could definately best Lao in the roadside rubbish department. But you're looking at a much higher population density in those countries. It's also down to level of development and money for public education efforts and even just proper trash collection/disposal.

Tracy - slowly but surely. I think things will change alot over the next decade. In Taiwan you have to ask and pay for plastic bags.

Teri Y - Right. The issue there I think is that the bottles/cans are sure to be recycled if the vendor holds onto them. But what about those plastic bags? Better than styrofoam or paper or plastic cups? No easy answers here.

Lesley - I'm sure. After all the vendors have to pay for those plastic bags! Good for you for making the effort.

Eleanor -- wrapping veg in newspaper is a great way to keep them fresh! Vendors at our local market in Kuala Lumpur do that as well -- secured with rubber bands.

Marts - thanks, upon closer inspection I think you're right!

Steve Jackson

I spent a week in Phu Quoc shortly after a heavy storm and all those plastic bags that get chucked into the Mekong Delta had been stirred up.

The sea was just all plastic bags and they were washed up all along the coast. Heart breaking.

That said I've lived in Central American and in Africa and it was equally bad there. Everybody thinks the problem is worst where they are.

My hunch is that developed countries are worse still in their use - despite a wider understanding of the environmental damage. We're just more sophisticated in hiding our rubbish. In the short term at least.


What took the cake for me at Phosy Market in Luang Prabang was bamboo (or rattan?) twine used to bind together live frogs! All speared through the feet, very uncomfortably...

Love the pix


green papaya

wow this is great site. The pictures look great, I haven't been back to laos in 11 years. Its nice to see a reminder of home


It's really shocking in Japan as well--seeing how much packaging they use for everything is a real wake-up call. If you buy 10 things at a store you will get at least 5 bags.

When I lived in Ireland they had a pretty hefty tax on plastic bags and this really worked to change my (and everyone else's) behavior. It wasn't the money that did it for me, it was the reminder every time I was at the counter that I was doing something bad. So I started carrying around a tote. They say that after this tax went into effect, plastic bag usage dropped 94%. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/world/europe/02bags.html)

And as for produce, I've found that if I buy enough that everything will get crushed, I've bought too much!

Rhonda Daniels

The photos are beautiful, especially the ones of the 'naturally packaged' foods.

Stringing cabbages? Simply brilliant!
I'll have to remember that for this year's veggie crop :)

Thanks for sharing!


Hi Robyn...Stan Sesser wrote a great article about the problem of plastic bags when I was his editor at AWSJ's Weekend Journal...sadly, can't find it online...


Steve - yup, we used to drive up the coast from Saigon on the wknd (abt an hour short of Mui Ne). Depending on the weather the beach might be clean and the water swimmable or both would be blanketed with plastic bags.

Wen - I tried not to see the frogs.

green papaya - welcome. Hope you'll feel free to comment, you undoubtedly have some insights to add to our Laos posts.

Lina - in Taiwan you have to ask, and pay for, plastic bags. It's a good system I think.

Rhonda - thank you.

Stephanie -- shoot, wish I could find a way to access it.

Hong Kong Jackie

The photos are beautiful.

It's amazing how much we as a society waste on a day to day basis. Plastic bags is just one of our problems.


love the rattan twine


Hi, I think that leafy green that you are not sure of is wild kangkung.

They grow wild near canals, paddy fields, usually near water.

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