With a slight hunch and a shy smile, Mr Phan does not look like your usual blacksmith with buff muscles and an intimidating presence. Yet, few who know him doubt his skills, he has over 40 years of experience in smithing, crafting everything from basic sickles, hammers to beautiful deer-horned daggers fit for kings.
Phan has been a blacksmith for as long as he can remember, first being taught by his father, also a blacksmith, then heading to Vietnam on a scholarship to learn various smithing techniques – no mean feat in those days. Now married with 5 children, blacksmithing is a skill all of them has and they help out whenever possible. However, with a disabled child and the low value attached to smithing work, and it was hard to make a living and Phan tries to make additional income and food through fishing in the river, learning how to throw nets, build fish traps and set them.
Backstreet Academy is the latest endeavour Phan got involved in, and with stellar results!
Since Phan started to host at Backstreet Academy Luang Prabang, the reviews have been streaming in, with over 21 reviews in the short few months, all 5-stars, no less! His warm personality, passion for the craft and a genuine desire to show travelers a traditional craft is his secret to being a great host at Backstreet Academy.
I’m happy when my guests are happy.
This philosophy has brought him numerous fans at the academy, and even local guesthouse owners visit Phan for a true backstreet experience making knives.
Interestingly, Phan recounts his favorite part of hosting as the part where the tourists sits on his blacksmith’s tool, learn to use his own hand-crafted tools over the years, and use every effort to hit the scrap metal into a fine piece of blade. When asked about his most memorable customers, he answered without hesitation, describing 2 American customers who showed so much genuine interest in his work, skills, family and life that they chatted non-stop the entire time before leaving, but not without leaving a big tip for him.
Not comfortable with simply resting on his laurels, Phan has gone on to create a second experience at Backstreet Academy – Fishing on the Nam Khan River, another of his hobbies! He teaches guests how to throw nets, set traps and shows them the best spots for fishing on the river, before capping it off with a hand-made BBQ station right on the shores of the Nam Khan River where he grills the day’s catch for his guests.
Not only has he brought smiles and lots of memorable experiences to tourists all over the world visiting Luang Prabang, he has also inspired us to continue making the Backstreet Experience the best we ever can for everyone in our community. Here’s a quote from Phan himself to cap off his inspirational story:
Even as we move into modernity, let’s not forget our culture and roots