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Going Potty in Bat Trang

There are a few shops in Bat Trang where you can make your own pots!
There are a few shops in Bat Trang where you can make your own pots!
An artist at work.
An artist at work.
The finished products...
The finished products…
Hang Luu leads the way into Bat Trang market.
Hang Luu leads the way into Bat Trang market.

Kings Day fell on 9 April in Vietnam. Its one of a range of public holidays, this one celebrating the Hung Kings who are seen as the founders of the nation. (I should point out, they’re called the Hung Kings because that was their name – Hung. Its not because they had oversized… Well, you get the idea). Since 2007 its been a bank holiday, and so me and my girlfriend Hang Luu took our chance to have a day out.

We decided to take a short drive out to Bat Trang, colloquially known as ‘The Pottery Village’, predictably on account of the large amounts of pottery produced there. Its less than an hour away from Hanoi, easily found, and well worth a visit.

The Pottery Village doesn’t let itself down: shops flogging pots and ceramics line the streets from the moment you arrive in town. Exactly who needs quite so much pottery in their lives is beyond me, but they seem to be keeping themselves in business, so I guess what do I know?

After the briefest of looks at a few of the boutiques, we found our way to an open shop where you could make your own pottery. We sat down, and were presented with a small spinning wheel, a pot of water and two lumps of soft, unmoulded clay.

I’ve done this before, made my own pottery. I remember when I was a kid, when me and my brother made some pots on holiday in England. I vividly remember a photograph showing us forming the pots, whilst a French bloke with a moustache looked over our shoulders. I don’t know why I remember he was French. Funny, the little details that stick.

I digress. So we made pots. Or at least… We attempted to make pots. Have you ever realised how difficult making a pot is? Next time you see a pot, spare a moment to think of how much skill and craft has gone into it, because try as we might, Hang Luu and I simply couldn’t turn the round lumps of clay with which we were presented into anything resembling a pot.

In the end the owner of the shop came and helped, and did so with such remarkable ease it was impossible to not be impressed. The final creations, which we later painted, are probably a greater reflection of his skill than ours…

It was cheap too! For 40,000VND each (£1.20) we first made and then decorated our pots to take home. I know I rave all the time about how different it is here compared to at home, but imagine if you went for a day out a home and made your own pots. It’d cost a small fortune. As it was we walked away happily after a day in the Pottery Village with our own unique pottery bearing our own unique designs.

Well worth a punt, if you’re ever in town and fancy some clay-based fun!