Vietnamese village brings incense stick tradition to social media

Photo courtesy of Thai PBS World

In the quaint Incense Village of Quang Phu Cau, nestled in the northern part of Vietnam, a vibrant transformation is underway.

Dang Thi Hoa, a seasoned artisan with three decades of incense stick craftsmanship, finds herself not just steeped in tradition but riding the wave of Instagram fervour. Lunar New Year, locally known as Tet, has taken on a whole new hue as this ancient village adapts to the whims of modern tourism.

The sacred art of dyeing incense sticks in scarlet red and magenta pink, a tradition passed down through three generations, now shares the spotlight with an explosion of colours — yellow, blue, and green, designed to lure the Instagram-savvy travellers eager to capture the essence of Tet.

Hoa proudly observes the evolving landscape, as bundles of multi-coloured sticks bask in the sun, forming an impressive Vietnamese map in front of the village temple.

“Our village has become a hotspot for tourists.”

For a mere 50,000 Vietnamese dollars (approximately 72 baht), visitors can immerse themselves in a photoshoot surrounded by these vibrant sticks that only cost 50 cents for a pack of 20. A nearby home even boasts a metal stairway, offering elevated perspectives for that perfect Insta-shot.

Incense stick craft

Nguyen Huu Long, a 58 year old stalwart in the incense trade, attests to the bustling season as Tet approaches.

“I assign one or two people to help visitors find the best angle for photos — and to make sure they don’t mess up the drying of the sticks.”

Tourists, like Catherine Caro from the Philippines, shower praise on the spectacle.

“The place is very nice, very colourful, and it’s really an Instagram-worthy place.”

Situated on the outskirts of Hanoi, Quang Phu Cau is just one gem in Vietnam’s incense stick trade, where families intricately weave through small alleys, engaging in the dying, drying, and crafting of bamboo bark, reported Thai PBS World.

The elaborate process involves hacking down bamboo branches, feeding them into whittling machines, dipping thin strips into buckets of vibrant dye, and finally, displaying the sticks on the streets like bouquets to air dry.

“I am proud of our family’s traditional craft… and also feel happy as our village has become more well known.”

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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