Just outside of Hanoi, the quaint pottery village of Bat Trang would put even the most impressive pottery factory to shame. Find out what’s waiting in this lesser-explored corner of the capital city.
Hanoi is full of good looking pottery. From faded food bowls to vast plant pots the city is bursting at the seams with ceramics. If you are looking for a souvenir or two, or want to try your hand on the potter’s wheel, then Bat Trang Village is the place to head.
You know that a city has good pottery when you find some of the nicest mugs and bowls you have seen in years thrown on the shelf of a non-descript supermarket. That is not the general barometer of a city’s artistic strength, but still it seemed as good as any.
That was my first experience of Hanoi ceramics and things have only gotten better since. With the supermarket shelves cleaned of interesting shaped bowls and the small shops and stalls scavenged for anything without a life threatening crack, I decided to spread my wings a bit and head to a whole village full of the stuff.
Bat Trang is about 12 kilometers outside of Hanoi, over the Red River and along a winding road. The “Pottery Village” part of the name conjures up images of rustic wooden buildings, tiled roofs and bearded potters bent over spinning wheels or peering into blast furnaces. Well the reality is certainly a little different.
From first impressions you could be anywhere in Hanoi, albeit for the lack of traffic, the streets and houses are not exactly your classic village scene. The first give away that you are in fact deep into pottery territory is the fact that everywhere you look, the only thing you can see has been made from clay and baked for a few hours. Quite literally there is not a shop that isn’t dedicated to pottery.
Large gaudily painted Alsatians stand guard at doorways, chess playing figurines peer from windows and huge towers of rice bowls in every state of production loom menacingly overhead. Bat Trang certainly has its fair share of shops to rummage through, but the 12Kms journey isn’t just for a shopping trip.
Small workshops and artisans
Behind the stacks of pottery, in the courtyards and alleyways beyond the main streets are small workshops where artisans hand make and bake the goods you have just been sifting through. At first you feel a little awkward just wandering into what you assume is a family courtyard uninvited, but give it a few minutes and you will not be able to help yourself from taking a closer look.
From piles of clay the women and men create huge piles of bowls, cups and tea pots. All ready to be fired, painted, glazed and stacked out the front. If you were in any doubt as to how difficult this all is, you can even give it a shot yourself.
Bear in mind this is a pottery class at its most basic, you will get a few instructions at the beginning but after that it is just you, a lump of clay, a piece of sponge and a hand spun wheel. 3 minutes in and the lump of clay with a thumb print in the middle is when it hits you that this is all very difficult.
Bat Trang is good fun and well worth a trip if you have some time in Hanoi or simply want to pick up some pottery before heading home. The selection is fairly standard across the shops, but some places are certainly better than others so don’t be shy to look around.
Want a trip to Bat Trang? Buffalo Tours can arrange half day visits from your Hanoi tour to the village – including a pottery class!