BackArts & Culture » Culture » How to Make a Bamboo Basket Boat, as Demonstrated by Phú Yên Artisans

How to Make a Bamboo Basket Boat, as Demonstrated by Phú Yên Artisans

As part of the sweltering south-central coast, Phu Yen Province has cultivated strong roots in the arts of gathering and rearing seafood.

For centuries, the image of floating thúng chai, or basket boat, has been a familiar fixture in local fishing communities because it directly contributes to the prosperity of the region. The name thúng chai comes from dầu chai, a type of oil used to waterproof the wicker baskets.

Phu My artisan village in An Dan Commune, Tuy An District of Phu Yen is notable for its creations: bamboo thúng chai. Even though generations of young locals have left their hometown to seek opportunities elsewhere, a number of basket weavers passionate about their craft have been holding fast to their village’s signature product for centuries.

To make a thúng chai, weavers have to go through many intricate steps from the selection of materials to the final touches. Basketmakers pick out bamboo trees from one to one and a half years old — not too young or too old — to produce an enduring thúng. Each basket will become a close companion for fishermen on their daily trips out to the sea, fishing for cuttlefish at night, or even during maritime harvest festivals every year.

Deliberating which bamboo tree to pick to be made into baskets.

Bamboo sticks are sliced into thin strips.

Tightening bamboo strips into a lattice.

The bamboo lattice is cut into a big circle.

Turning the lattice into a dome by using one's strength to pound it along the surface of a dirt mound — a process called "lận thúng."

Shaping the edge of the basket.

Securing the basket mouth.

Cow dung is an important ingredient in filling in gaps between bamboo strips.

Lastly, a layer of oil is lathered inside the basket to waterproof it.

Complete baskets drying in the sun before being delivered to clients.

Trương Hoài Vũ is a Saigon-based photographer. See more of his work on his Instagram accounts.

Darkroom is a Saigoneer series documenting the beauty and stories of Vietnam and beyond via photographs. If you have a compelling story you wish to share, send us an email via

Related Articles

Chris Humphrey

in Culture

At Hanoi's Thousand-Year-Old Flute Kite Festival, Melodies and Prayers Cross the Sky

Passed down by village forefathers since the Dinh Dynasty, Ba Duong Noi Village’s kite festival has become a source of pride for the local community. With three bamboo flutes attached to each kite, it...

Linh Pham

in Food Culture

For 2 Decades, a Hanoi Family Has Kept the Fire of the Bánh Chưng Pot Burning

Much like the peach blossom or the lucky money envelope, bánh chưng is a staple part of Tết.

in Culture

For a Tết Full of Rich Traditions, Head to Saigon's Hoa Community

Up until 2011, I thought that everybody in Saigon had the same Tet every year, with apricot flowers in the living room and bánh chưng or bánh tét on the altar, and family trips to the Nguyen Hue flowe...

in Saigon

In a D6 Hẻm, Saigon's Last Remaining Broom-Making 'Village'

Nestled in a hẻm on Phạm Phú Thứ Street, District 6 is Saigon’s last remaining broom-making village.

Paul Christiansen

in Culture

Need a Sign From the Universe? Lương Hữu Khánh Street Has Every Color, Shape, and Size.

Saigon is filled with addresses you aren’t looking for, announcements not aimed at you and signs for businesses you have no plans to frequent. Sign street demands delving into the oft-ignored.

in Travel

The Charm of Hòn Yến, Where Coral-Watching Doesn't Involve Diving

Every year, from May to August, when the water reaches its lowest levels at Hòn Yến, a “jungle” of vibrant coral reefs and other marine creatures rises to the surface.

Partner Content