The Glow from Within ~ Brick Making Along the Mekong

“No man ever wetted clay and then left it as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune”. ~ Plutarch

Vietnam Brick Factory

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.

Vietnam Brick Factory Vietnam Brick Factory

One can’t help but notice the small, simple shrine adjacent to the kiln asking Buddha’s blessings.

Vietnam Brick Factory

Not only are bricks molded, baked and cured, but pottery is made from concrete molds.

Vietnam Brick Factory Vietnam Brick Factory

I love the wooden carts which create an artistic design in itself.

Vietnam Brick Factory

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.

Vietnam Brick Factory

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.

Vietnam 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).



About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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27 Responses to The Glow from Within ~ Brick Making Along the Mekong

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Amazing and gorgeous fotos!

  2. Why thank you, Cindy. An unusual stop for tourists, but glad we were taken there.

  3. Cecilia says:

    These are the rare moments you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Absolutely great post, I enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

  4. Authentic and genuine. A treasure to behold. These photos are absolutely breathtaking…and to think it is a humble family-owned brick factory. Thanks for the tour.

  5. Gigi says:

    Ah, commemoratives bricks! Surely you wish you had now? Just joking … but they could make an original paperweight! This is a wonderful post and I am touched by your words and feel empathy and love for the workers! And wonderful, touching photographs!

  6. Dear Gigi. I hope I didn’t sound too cynical with the commemorative brick statement, but we especially got tired of being hawked by vendors, especially in Cambodia. People the world over work so hard for so little and it is humbling to watch. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  7. i so enjoyed this post and the images (which loaded b/c i am in town!).. i thought that it would be hot to work there during the ‘summer’ months yet the heat would be sooothing in colder times!

  8. vbholmes says:

    As always, great photos and interesting post. It’s always special when a trip takes you to an off-the-beaten-tourist-route spot–these excursions often become one of your most treasured memories. A few years ago, i lived on a farm–there was a strain of pure clay and it was interesting to roll it, form a pot and leave it in the sun to harden (I must admit, my pot chipped easily and broke after a few days but it was fun to create something without using any modern materials or tools).

    • What a great experience, working in clay that was naturally available and using only what was at hand.I guess without being fired, it had little chance of surviving. Thanks for sharing, VB.

  9. restlessjo says:

    I love the little prayer niche, Lynne. There doesn’t seem to be much else of joy in these ladies lives. Beautifully told 🙂

    • There was a couple of young workers ( male and female) cutting up and laughing while taking a break. Unfortunately we didn’t get that picture. They seemed to be the only bright spot in the factory. The prayer niche is sweet. 🙂

  10. Letizia says:

    What a beautiful factory. I love seeing how objects are made in general, to see the creative process in action. Nice find!

  11. I’m like you, Letizia. I enjoy seeing the process and this was not at all disappointing. We saw several demonstrations elsewhere that were food related, but this was more authentic.

  12. I love the way that you and Ron often go off the beaten track to find the real story of a country and its people. The empathy which you were feeling for these women really comes across in your photos, Lynne. Wonderful post.

  13. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Sylvia. It’s not always easy to peel away the layers on a trip to get down to the “real”, but sometimes it happens and then I’m so glad for the encounter.

  14. Tony Di says:

    I’m glad we can see this lovely part of the planet without getting shot at- No so back in 1969 during my last visit there. It’s a beautiful world otherwise..

    • Yes, it is a beautiful world and the Mekong is a far cry from the time you spent there, Tony. So glad I could take you back there vicariously and safely. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  15. Thanks for this interesting peek into Mekong, far away from usual itineraries. I’ve read so much about the delta’s waterways and flower markets, but this was a whiff of fresh air. 🙂 Lovely pictures, and a vivid description to go along with it – enjoyed the post!

    • Thank you Ami for your thoughtful comment. We were lucky we had a guide who wanted us to see this. He understood that we weren’t the typical tourists and we felt humbled with this special encounter. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  16. Madhu says:

    Such an interesting detour from the casual range of touristy stops! Your images are evocative and re-kindled fond memories of my grandfathers roofing tile factory. Only that one guzzled firewood….I remember the stacks and stacks of wood piled up in the yard at any given time!

    • I found this visit to the brick factory my favorite and it sounds like I would have felt the same if I walked into your grandfather’s factory. Am pleased the post touched on some fond childhood memories, Madhu. Thanks for sharing.

  17. I am surprised as well to see the women did the physical work in clay industries that usually considered as men’s job. Is the men then the ones who supervising them? I saw similar sights in some part of India, where women workers did the physical works while the men are their supervisor.
    Thank you for sharing your travel 🙂 I am keen to visit Vietnam someday 🙂

  18. I didn’t see any evidence of male supervision at the kiln, but there were males working, too.
    While in India, I saw women working in fields, but mostly doing domestic work. In the big cities, all I saw were men working in stores and markets.No women. Very interesting. Thanks for your comment and observation, Indah.

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