Organic Farm Vang Vieng

How I happened to paint new street signs for Vang Vieng's famous organic farm

Selling Queen Beatrix

Queen Beatrix, my shiny motorbike, and I, its shady owner, were crossing Laos, planning to enter China.

However, since China doesn't allow foreign vehicles, we had to abandon each other, and I tried to sell her with a quickly drawn ad (fig. 3) that I displayed at the Vang Vieng Organic Farm—which is quite famous among backpackers and the like.

fig. 2: Beatrix
fig. 3: The ad

Then came Robyn

Two days later I was approached by Robyn, an Australian woman of action running an English school with the help of volunteers. But instead of buying Beatrix, she asked me if I would like to renew some small wall paintings on the farm.

I managed to talk her into making new, big, bold street signs for food and accommodation, because when I tried to find the farm, I missed it twice.

fig. 4: The funny old signs were easy to miss when passing by

Back to work, again and again

fig. 5

I thus started with the conception of bigger signs. Fortunately, the farm's owner agreed to use bold, easy-on-the-eye typography and a style close to Hergé's Tintin, and I spent most of my days painting in the shade of a bungalow.

fig. 6
fig. 7: My favorite draft was neglected. Laotian workers asked me if I had ever seen a goat in my life, since this one clearly was none.
fig. 8a: We, the volunteers, spent our days cleaning the goats' stalls and forming mud bricks.
fig. 8b: Elia, the Italian soon-to-be architect, constructed new bungalows.
fig. 8c: My open air atelier. At that time, there was annoyingly loud music played from different party spots at the river close by, but that's another story.
fig. 8d: It turned out that my painting spot was also the workers' break one. Also, it was the home of many, many, way too many flies.
fig. 8e: Slowly getting somewhere …
fig. 8f: … then ruining the finished thing with waterproof varnish that I applied on the back. Damn.
fig. 8g: Priceless: Getting told that there were Lao signs missing after I finished the English ones. Luckily, the farm's cook was a pro, and I spent a few days more painting.

Sarah Eve Cardell was traveling around the globe with the support of her blog's followers, and I was quite amused to find myself mentioned in her writings:

fig. 9


In the end, I had spent ten wonderful days on the farm, painting signs, visiting caves, meeting great people, and eating goat cheese sandwiches en masse.

fig. 10: The final signs
fig. 11: Easter egg (front + back)!