Thuốc lào (pipe tobacco) is a very popular smoke of Vietnamese people, mainly for men. Thuoc lao comes from a plant with wide, soft leaves with sticky hairs. Some people smoke by rolling the tobacco in a piece of banana leaf or a piece of paper into the size of a little finger. The majority of people, however, use a hubble-bubble. There are different kinds of hubble-bubble: dieu bat which is popular in most families; dieu ong which is used in rich families; and, dieu cay which is used by working class.
Dieu cay is the simplest. This is a bamboo cylinder of about half a meter long with a small hole for a wooden bowl. When smoking, people put tobacco in the bowl, light with a spill, keep the spill burning, take a breath, puff loudly then discharge the smoke. “Điếu cày” gives a very strong taste.
Dieu bat has the shape of a small pomelo made of glazed terra-cotta or porcelain. Its bowl is made of metal or wood inlaid with bronze. The stem is a small and straight small bamboo tube of about half a meter long with a lot of dots. Dieu bat is always placed in a wooden or white-glazed porcelain bowl with decorative patterns.
Dieu ong is more special. This is a round tube made of wood or bamboo of 30cm high. Wood used to make dieu ong must be a rare kind and skillfully inlaid with mother of pearl. Dieu ong has a hoop, handle, and rim made of silver. The stem is a short-dotted bamboo tube.
Thuoc lao Vinh Bao (Hai Phong City) is the favorite kind for Thang Long-Ha Noi people. The box for thuoc lao is made of the skins of pomelos, oranges, and tangerines which are pressed and dried to become as hard as tanned leather. This box helps keep thuoc lao soft, fragrant, and dry.
In the past, hubble-bubbles, along with betel-trays, and tea sets, were indispensable things to welcome guests in families in Viet Nam in general and in Thang Long in particular.