The process for all bricks made in Vietnam for domestic use and export to Cambodia is the same. It takes four and a half months to make a brick, three and a half to make a tile.
The clay is sourced from 20 km away and brought by boat along the Mekong. The clay is then processed with water, put through an extruding machine and extruded as formed bricks onto a conveyor belt. Two hole bricks are denser, heavier and used for foundations. Four hole bricks are lighter and used for walls. The holes also provide ventilation to keep the houses cooler.
Above: Looking up, inside an empty kiln. Once the bricks are ready they are taken to the kiln. The women workers stand inside the kiln and take bricks from a conveyer belt. They gradually build up the bricks until they, and they bricks, reach the roof of the kiln.
The fuel is rice husk (remember the barge full of rice husk in yesterday's post - this is where it was going!). A rice factory is situated close to each brick factory for ease of transportation. Each ton of rice husk costs $10.00 and one hundred and twenty tons are used to produce one batch of bricks that take four and a half months to cure in the kiln. Tiles take only three and a half months.
Shrinkage of about 5-10% occurs because the bricks at the front get too hot and the ones at the back don't get hot enough. So only the middle bricks are good for sale. Bricks sell for $0.10 each and tiles $0.07 each.
Kilns are rotated, a brick factory might have four kilns but usually only one will be operational at a time because of limited numbers of firemen. Each kiln will last from ten to fifteen years before it must be torn down and a new one built. They're made of bricks made on site and about $2,000 of a special mud that must be purchased. The mud and brick can withstand the up to 1,000 degree C temperatures whereas concrete cannot.
Coming up next: I Wear Snakeskin (and it's not what you think!)