Photograph of the week: Salt harvesting, Hon Khoi Salt Fields, Vietnam

Every year Hon Khoi Salt Fields produces around 737,000 tons of salt. Or perhaps we should say, Hon Khoi Salt Fields yields 737,000 tons of salt. For it’s actually the hard-working, mostly middle-aged women who toil on said fields from 4am to 9am every morning, January to June, who are responsible for production.

Interestingly, while many tourists know Vietnam only for its white sandy beaches, tropical climate, and friendly, resilient people, it’s these very things that are so indispensable to a successful salt harvest, and which contribute to Vietnam’s thriving salt industry. You only have to visit Hon Khoi to see the truth in this.

Located about 45km from Nha Trang City, Hon Khoi Salt Fields is one of the largest salt fields in Vietnam. Here, as mentioned, between the months of January and June, when the summer heat is conducive to salt harvesting (with temperatures rising as high as 40°C), you will find mountains of natural salt that have been manually raked and collected from shallow fields along Doc Let Beach. Once harvested, the salt is left to evaporate for about 10 days before then being collected in wicker baskets, each weighing upwards of 10kgs.

As for the harvesters? Wearing conical hats, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and face masks to protect themselves from both the heat and the salt itself, the women go about their work uncomplainingly, with visitors telling of sounds of laughter and chatting in the fields, in spite of the strenuous nature of the task at hand.

While the stories of on-field camaraderie, combined with the many, many salt-harvesting-at-sunrise photos at Hon Khoi may present an incredibly picturesque version of this area, and the crop for which it is most famous, make no mistake: this is back breaking work. Work that needs to take place early in the day to avoid the worst of the day’s heat. Heat which is absolutely necessary for the salt to form in the first place. Which is why, if you’re planning on getting your own photo-of-the-week-worthy image of the salt harvesting here, you too must be up with the sparrows at 4am.

Hon Khoi Salt Fields are about an hour’s drive from Nha Trang city centre, with many tour operators offering excursions to the area, most even leaving early enough for you to capture the dawn.

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