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.

Photo of the week: Salt Harvesting, Vietnam

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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Comments (7)

  1. Julie Humphries says:

    And to think that I complain about early starts and working hard! This picture puts a lot of our First World lives into perspective, some of us don’t know that we are born, as my Granny used to say.

  2. Irene Richards says:

    I know salt production is quite a big industry within Vietnam but I hadn’t heard of the Hon Khoi Salt Fields. I wouldn’t have expected it to be a tourist destination but it’s nice that it’s open to tourists to see so they can learn how it’s harvested, get a feel for the culture as it sounds like it’s still quite traditional in how it’s all done, and actually appreciate the hard work that goes into it. That’s a fantastic photo.

  3. Alex T says:

    That’s a lot of salt! Is it not possible to do any of this with technology and machinery? I’m just wondering whether it has to be done by hand or whether it’s choice to do it this way or perhaps lack of finance to implement other methods? It must be incredibly tough on the workers here, though I actually prefer the idea of working 4am to 9am and having work out of the way, but I don’t imagine that’s enough of an income for them either.

  4. Phil says:

    Sure it’s tough having to be up that early to grab a picture. When you get a fantastic picture like this which you’ll treasure for the rest of your life it has to be worth all the effort.

  5. Dave says:

    I can attest to the heat of Vietnam. I was in Ho Chi Minh City last year in January, and in the afternoon the heat was almost unbearable to be outside. So it’s no wonder they need to get their work done so early. Personally, I think around 7-9 AM is the best time to explore Vietnam anyway. I love seeing the Vietnamese people getting their days started, very focused and diligent people. Friendly too!

  6. Claire Smith says:

    Why middle-aged women? Do younger women look for more skilled jobs with later starts, longer hours and better pay? Maybe the early start suits these women with homes to run. The early start might give them the chance to get their work over first thing.

    If there isn’t a younger generation coming through it makes you wonder what will happen when these middle-aged women move on or will they just be replaced by the next generation?

  7. L. Fields says:

    Beautiful picture. The contrast made the silhoutte and of the harvesters stand out and had just enough color to clearly see the salt. Great framing as well. I’ve never seen salt being harvested like this and have always thought that you need to dry out sea water before you can get the salt. It’s an amazing insight and would probably be even better to witness.

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