“No man ever wetted clay and then left it as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune”. ~ Plutarch
The minute we walked inside the brick making foundry near My Tho and Caibe, I was surprised that it was just us and the workers. No guided tour. No one to answer our questions.
On our own, we carefully walked around, cameras in hand. The glow of the kiln offered its own beauty and I was surprised at not feeling a tremendous amount of heat radiating, but I didn’t test it by getting too close.
Notice that it is fueled by rice husks being fed directly into the kiln through a metal grate situated above the door. I was impressed how nothing goes to waste and how this agricultural by-product from numerous rice crops is put to use. Rice, the staple of life in South East Asia and beyond is abundantly grown along the Mekong. Even the clay source for brick making comes from the river banks.
I notice that most of the workers are women. I was surprised. I could only imagine the long shifts of loading and unloading heavy bricks off the conveyors daily, let alone the heat, and the toxic dust that all the workers were subject to. Most of the Vietnamese simply ignored us and very few made eye contact.
One can’t help but notice the small, simple shrine adjacent to the kiln asking Buddha’s blessings.
Not only are bricks molded, baked and cured, but pottery is made from concrete molds.
I love the wooden carts which create an artistic design in itself.
We later learn that this is a small family owned factory and the patriarch had recently died. He wanted to be buried right here. Perhaps he is still watching over his workers.
After doing a little reading on the subject, I understand there are around 10,000 brick-making factories in Vietnam, many of which are tremendously big operations. Using traditional methods, one thing that hasn’t changed is the lack of modernization and mechanizing. Apparently, in the larger factories, they use coal to fuel the kilns, adding more pollution to the Delta region.
While life teemed outside on the river with its colorful floating markets and painted boats, another kind of daily life was going on inside a brick factory.
I felt humbled to observe this unique glimpse of life along the Mekong. Unlike some of the touristy stops along the river, this was authentic and genuine. No one to usher us into a souvenir shop (to sell us a commemorative brick to take home).