Blazing pink of incense village

In Vietnam's "incense village", dozens are hard at work dyeing, drying and whittling down bamboo bark to make the fragrant sticks ahead of the busy Tet, or Vietnamese new year, season.

It is the most frantic time of year for workers in the cottage industry in Quang Phu Cau village on the outskirts of Hanoi, where families have been making incense for more than a century - a great source of pride for many. "It is a traditional and spiritual job making these sticks," Ms Dang Thi Hoa told Agence France-Presse, sitting amid bundles of bright pink incense sticks drying under the afternoon sun.

Most households in the alleys of Quang Phu Cau are involved in the ancient trade. Some hack bamboo planks down to be fed into a whittling machine, while others dip the thin strips into buckets of pink dye, leaving hundreds of brightly coloured bushels fanned out like bouquets on the streets to air out.

The village is among several in Vietnam making the sticks, the scent of each batch tailored to the tastes of regions they will be sold in.

Like Ms Hoa, many earn good money making incense compared with factory work nearby.

By selling her sticks in central Vietnam, she can earn up to US$430 (S$584) a month leading up to Tet, a tidy sum in the country where the average monthly income is US$195.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2019, with the headline 'Blazing pink of incense village'. Print Edition | Subscribe