Quang Phu Cau Village in Ung Hoa District, 35 km south of Hanoi's downtown, always has brightly colored incense sticks stacked by its entrance. Its products are consumed not only in Vietnam but also in India, China, Malaysia, and other countries.
Ha, a craftsman, chops bamboo to make the joss sticks. "In the last five years the number of families buying machines to chop the bamboo or buying chopped bamboo has risen into the hundreds," he said.
Some also chop the bamboo by hand for others. For chopping a ton of bamboo they earn VND200,000 ($8.6). "If they work hard, workers can chop 700 to 800 kilograms of bamboo a day," Ha said.
Besides fragrant sticks, Quang Phu Cau villagers also produce high-end products by hand from fresh bamboo.
Cau is one of the few skilled craftsmen known for his ability to manually chop bamboo. "I don’t earn much but my living is steady because there is demand," he said.
A worker bunches sticks together and selects the best ones. Before chopping, the bamboo is stored in chemicals for two months to protect them from weevils.
The sticks are dipped in pink dye and dried outdoors.
A worker arranges the sticks outdoors to dry. Workers in this old trade earn VND5-6 million ($215 - 258) a month. Those who have more experience in dyeing, drying and producing incense paste can make VND6-8 million ($258 - 345).
On average, Quang Phu Cau Village collects around 200 tons of materials and produces 50 tons of incense a month.
A worker uses a machine to apply incense paste to the bamboo sticks. This used to be done manually, but recently many have switched to machines.
The family of Nguyen Huu Long dries the incense at midday.