Our Vietnam photography tour destination today is a village located 1.5 hour driving from Hanoi. This is where the locals have long involved in making incense sticks. Then, the sticks travel to all over Vietnam to find themselves burning on family alters or in temples. Photographs of these sticks have been published on some famed channels, including CNN. And some others gained awards from Smithsonian photo contests.
The people of Quang Phu Cau village were once all farmers. And leading a farming life in Vietnam, most are involved in doing an extra thing to better the living standard. At Quang Phu Cau, this extra job was making incense sticks.
Incense sticks play an important roles in Vietnamese spiritual life. There are temples, pagodas, shrines everywhere. And at home, every family has an alter, where they practice the cult on ancestor worship. The must for this practice is an incense urn, to keep the sticks straight for burning. And therefore, the demand of incense sticks have been throughout the history of the Vietnamese.
In an usual morning in Quang Phu Cau village, the locals shred sticks out of bamboo shoots. Then, a dyeing process takes place and a layer of red color is applied onto a half of the stick. The sticks are then dried out in the sun in bundles. These bundles have umbrella shape in order to get as much light as possible. These sticks make a layer of deep red color on your photos.
It is the shapes and the color of these incense stick bundles that are really photogenic. The photos are unique. It is like each and every shot is the one you cannot afford deleting.
During the drying process, the workers would go around, carefully selecting the bad sticks to take out of the bundles. Making incense is a spiritual work for the locals, and they do their best to ensure the quality. Late on, these sticks are collected and tied in bundles. They are then loaded onto a truck and transferred to a place where the next treating step takes place.
There are many incense villages in northern Vietnam, and Quang Phu Cau village is among the most photogenic. This village make the fist part of an incense – the stick. Here, different families are involved in different process. At most time of the day, family members join each other at work.
6:30 am: Our tour to Quang Phu Cau village departs from your hotel. The first half of the drive is through a residential area in the city, giving you more chance to see Hanoi’s city life. The later half of the drive is in the countryside with rice fields and villages.
7:30 – 9:30 am: We will photograph the locals drying incense sticks. These sticks, after being shaped and dyed, will be brought to open fields for drying. The red colors of the sticks make the whole scene really eye-catching. We will study the subjects and look for the lights, the angles to best compose our photos.
At some 10:00 am, we will leave the village for our return to Hanoi.
Please be noted that this tour can be done in the afternoon, as the scenes remain similar comparing to the morning. The timings for the afternoon is as per following:
1:00 pm: Depart from hotel
2:30 – 5:00 pm: Photograph in Quang Phu Cau village
5:00 – 6:30 pm: Return to your hotel in Hanoi