The sun kept shining harshly on Hanoi and the temperature did not seem to lower down. The route from Hanoi to Bat Trang was not the prettiest and the traffic on the highway could take your breathe away every second. However, that 30 minute ride brought me out of the city and took me to a village where the tradition of making ceramics has been passed on for the last 700 years and through different generations.
With its old tradition, Bat Trang has marked it name to the most famous village for making unique ceramics and their products have been supplied to all over Vietnam. The village is far from to be called touristy despite its popularity. Certainly, it is not a catchy place to come to take photos but it is fascinating to learn about. Each house has its own ceramic business – either selling ceramic products (Bat Trang Porcelain) or workshops teaching how to make ceramics or painting ceramic statues. I could not help but get very curious about making one myself. Looking at the instructor showing me how to create a simple vase, it seemed so easy. Starting with making your clay wet and try to centralise the inner point, working with your fingers and palms to make the pottery go higher and thinner. However, the second I laid my palms around the clay, I sensed its difficulty. It requires so much carefulness and gentleness. If the water is too much, it could ruin the whole thing. “The water is to make it dam not wet, to make it slippery enough to create the form of the pottery” – said the instructor.
The outcome did not turn out as pretty as I had expected it to be but I gotta learn to appreciate this handcraft industry. Even though, there are now several other ways to make potteries without making by hands but there in Bat Trang, it is the tradition that still stays alive and sure will not be forgotten any time soon.
If you come to Bat Trang, the porcelain market is not the only thing you should check out. Try to take a walk through small alleys because those are where you find the real ceramic village. People make the mixture for the clay, shape different potteries, store final products. That’s where you find what the actual procedure is. The paths are narrow but cosy. Somehow, it seemed like a maze but you will always find the way out. Sometimes you end up at some temples, or to the Red River, or to the other side of the village. No matter what, you would not mind being lost in that maze.