World-renowned for its colorful and aesthetically pleasing incense bundles, Quang Phu Cau attracts more tourists, prompting locals to develop services to satisfy visitors.
The art of making incense in Quang Phu Cau commune, Ung Hoa district, has been cultivated for over a hundred years. Initially, incense-making emerged in Phu Luong Thuong village and gradually spread to other hamlets such as Dao Tu and Cau Bau.
After a century of development, the fragrance of Quang Phu Cau village has become renowned for its high-quality products and diverse designs. Currently, there are about 3,000 households participating in incense production in the Quang Phu Cau cooperative.
Famous for the beauty of its multicolored incense bundles, Quang Phu Cau attracts an increasing number of visitors. It has become a tourist destination, and locals are adapting by offering services alongside their traditional trade.
At the Cau Bau communal house, tourists can explore, take photos, and learn about Quang Phu Cau's incense village. This is the first city-level tourist spot in the entire commune, established on February 25, 2023.
The head of Cau Bau hamlet, Nguyen Dinh Dam, stated that the village sees a significant influx of visitors from August onwards, with peak days welcoming up to 300 tourists. Eighty percent of the tourists are foreigners.
"The development of tourism is changing the face of this incense village. The pace of life is livelier, and even children actively engage in conversations with foreign visitors," said Mr. Dam.
Though international visitors have shown more interest in the past two years, developing tourism in Quang Phu Cau commune is not easy.
Traditional incense business households have been hesitant to invest in showcasing and creating check-in points for tourists. Mr. Dam mentioned that establishing the first tourist attraction at Cau Bau communal house required considerable effort to encourage locals to invest and promote it together.
On the evening of February 6th, a family of 10 from Argentina visited Quang Phu Cau incense village after exploring Ha Long Bay. The group spent about an hour taking photos in areas adorned with formations shaped like the Vietnamese flag and the letter "S," a symbol of Vietnam, while also learning about the handmade incense-making process.
Natasha, from the Argentine group, remarked that the incense village was "beautiful and interesting."
She was impressed by how families worked together to produce incense and preserve the cultural beauty of Vietnam.
"This is the first village in Hanoi that we have visited. It's fascinating to learn more about the lives of people outside the city," she said.
Nguyen Van Ban, 69 years old, the owner of a longstanding incense-making household in the village, rearranged incense bundles after tourists visited.
His current job involves caring for and arranging incense bundles to ensure perfect shapes. Transitioning from a traditional incense maker, he now manages the tourist attraction at Cau Bau communal house, allowing his children to focus on daily business operations.
Dang Thi Hoa, 42 years old, a fourth-generation member of a family with a hundred years of incense-making tradition in Bau Nam hamlet, Cau Bau, was one of the first to participate in developing tourism in Quang Phu Cau commune. She oversees processes such as dyeing incense and shaping the letter "S" at the communal house. She mentioned that the income from participating in tourism development is negligible compared to traditional work.
According to her, dyeing incense with vivid colors like green, blue, purple, and yellow has only emerged in the last three years. The village's tradition was to dye incense red and pink, resembling lotus petals.
After about six months, the incense in the communal house will be replaced. The replacement time depends on preservation and weather conditions. If there is much sunlight, the colors fade quickly, while excessive rain can cause mold.
Ngo Thi Nhung is dyeing incense on a machine, which has been present in the village for a long time to facilitate faster production. Since tourism began, Nhung's small workplace has become busier due to the arrival of foreign tourists. Occasionally, she allows tourists to experience the work of dyeing incense if there's time.
After dyeing and drying, the incense is tied into large bundles before being sold.
In the courtyard of Long Hoa incense production facility, there are incense bundles shaped for tourists to take photos. Nguyen Huu Long, the owner, has been in the trade for 40 years but hasn't joined the local tourism development group as he's busy with his business. If he displayed incense all day for photo shoots, there wouldn't be space to dry incense for sale.
Thus, he primarily showcases red-footed incense bundles waiting to dry for sale, along with a few corners for photo shoots. The incense sticks are replaced with new ones every day to maintain freshness and prevent mold.
The letter "S" symbol and the Vietnamese flag made from incense in Long's courtyard.
In 2017, a photo titled "Making Incense" by photographer Tran Tuan Viet, taken inside this facility, was featured in National Geographic's "World Perspectives" section. In 2018, this photo helped Viet win the Tourism Photography category of the prestigious Smithsonian annual photo contest. Long asserts that his facility was the first to bring attention to Quang Phu Cau incense village.
However, at that time, the facility simply dried incense without intending to create attractions for tourists like now. After some time, as more tourists and international media visited, the concept of "dyeing incense" began to flourish.
A flower made from dyed incense bundles. According to locals, all of these are dyed with chemical colors. These products are for display only and not for sale.
The tourism exploitation of the incense village is still in its early stages, mainly focusing on photo shoot experiences. Tourists typically stay for a maximum of one hour because there aren't many hands-on experiences, such as actual incense making or sampling local cuisine.
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