She was all of 10 years old when Men was abandoned by her mother in front of the Saigon Central Post Office in District 1. Men was also blind. After hours, her heart-rending cries caught the attention of the local police. They took her to a nursing home near the Thi Nghe Bridge in Binh Thanh District. Men stayed there for two years, before moving to the Blind Association of HCMC in the same district. She’s been living there for 26 years now. Her days in the association’s dormitory were peaceful, revolving around a single bed and a pet cat named Quay. But Men wanted more. She decided to start her own handicraft business. Stuffed animals, handbags, key chains, artificial flowers... she could make many things. Her work is so remarkably meticulous that even people with sight would have a hard time imitating it. She asked me how to post pictures of her works online. She has a Facebook account for her business, naturally, but for the last two years, no one bought any of her … [Read more...] about In Vietnam, are the blind leading the blind?
Dang Hung Vo, former Deputy Minister of Vietnam's Natural Resources and Environment There is a Vietnamese folk tale about an old couple who lived in northern Vietnam for 30 years, overcoming together two big storms and five big floods. Though it is a folk tale, its details are drawn from true experiences of northerners. In the modern world, that tale can never be true. The north and north central regions just suffered two storms in two consecutive months, Son Tinh in July and Bebinca in August. The two entered Vietnam almost on the same route, triggering heavy rains in the entire northern and central northern regions, leading to flashfloods and landslides in the northern uplands and then serious flooding in the capital city of Hanoi. Those days when it was raining cats and dogs in Hanoi, I was stuck at home. I could not even call a cab and even if I could, traffic was paralyzed because of the floods. Those days, I slept on many thoughts. I watched TV to catch up on news about the two … [Read more...] about In Vietnam and elsewhere, ‘disaster capitalism’ is at play
Bubble tea has stirred up quite a controversy in recent weeks as netizens argue whether its frequent consumption is wasteful or simply a matter of personal choice. Last month, Swedish fast fashion brand H&M also made headlines as thousands of shoppers lined up for its first store opening in Saigon. These are just some signs of rising consumerism in Vietnam. When describing professional middle class youth in Vietnam, a research paper published in 2007 in the Journal of Modern Asian Studies stated: "The evidence that is available suggests a greater interest in consumption, leisure activities, accessing information and news, and the maintenance and achievement of social status." Yet, "there does not seem to be a significant political identity emerging among middle class Vietnamese or an interest in mobilizing political resources, although there is some evidence of involvement in topical … [Read more...] about Is it right to channel Vietnam’s brimming youthful energy into consumerism?
VnExpress International introduces to you the second think-piece on The Cable Car Debate by Mila Le. Click here to read why another reader thinks world's largest caves in Vietnam are not for everybody. A lot has been said about the environmental repercussions of a cable car system across Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. It goes against the concept of why national parks were introduced in the first place - protecting invaluable biodiversity from exploitative humans. But it’s not just a matter of the classic environment versus economic growth trade off. In Vietnam, cable cars, along with luxury resorts, huge statues and other “quitessence of modernity”, have also come to represent the country’s obsession with becoming civilized (văn minh) through owning (làm chủ) nature. Yet by trying to “improve” what we already have with imposing … [Read more...] about Don’t try to ‘improve’ Phong Nha. Learn to appreciate it instead
Vietnam's internet community was abuzz over the weekend following news that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has endorsed a controversial cable car project into the country's world-renowned cave kingdom. Unlike previous plans, this one does not include the world's largest cave Son Doong. Instead it will run 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles) from a section of the Ho Chi Minh Highway to En (Swallow) Cave, which was catapulted to global fame when it was aired live on U.S. talk show Good Morning America in May 2015. En Cave, a feeder to the world's largest cave Son Doong in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, stretches 1,645 meters into the mountain and has been named one of the most captivating caves on earth by National Geographic. It is also believed to be the world’s third largest cave, according to CNN. The cable car controversy in Quang Binh started in 2014 when the province announced plans to build a $212-million gondola lift into Son … [Read more...] about The cable car debate: Should Vietnam open its cave kingdom to mass tourism?