By staff writers – Translated by Kim Khanh
By staff writers – Translated by Kim Khanh
Apricot blossoms in Mu Nau Valley of Son La Province, northern Vietnam.
Mu Nau Valley lies in sub-zone 13 of Moc Chau Town in Son La Province. Two kilometers south of Moc Chau center, the valley spans 200 hectares and comprises a 40-year-old apricot forest, a 25-year-old plum forest, and an old-growth forest.
The route from the town to the valley is short but steep and requires excellent driving skills, often scaring first-timers.
Leaving Moc Chau around 5 p.m, I was accompanied by Duy, owner of Pho Nui Tinh Yeu Homestay, to Mu Nau. He picked me up at the intersection near town and advised me to mentally prepare myself for the ride, an effort that would prove futile as soon as we hit the road.
The higher we got, the more Duy revved his engine, with the slope becoming increasingly uncooperative. I was not in the least comforted by the fact I was on the back of a local’s bike. At one point, I was shaking with my eyes closed shut out of fear the vehicle would flip over. As we ascended the hill, I gripped onto Duy, holding on for dear life.
After five minutes of wrestling with the road, we finally reached our destination. Drenched, I quickly used my arm to wipe the sweat off my forehead. This would be the first and last time I would ever take that “death” road, I thought to myself.
From the tippy top of Mu Nau, sun rays gently lit wild flowers, weeds, and evergreen grassy plots. The entire town of Moc Chau nestled snugly at the bottom. Pretty, poetic, and romantic beyond words. It was afternoon and breezy, with a hazy mist floating far off. Indeed, at the end of a rocky road was a real-life paradise.
Enraptured by the amazing beauty of the landscape, I stood contemplating it as the sun gradually set behind the mountains.
It was now 6 p.m. and the sun had completely disappeared. As dusk fell, lights brightened Moc Chau. Lining the main streets of town, yellow lights sparkled in the dark night like stars in the sky. Night had arrived in Moc Chau!
Under the night sky, Duy drove me to Pho Nui Tinh Yeu Homestay in Mu Nau Valley. Tucked in the heart of Mu Nau Valley, Duy’s homestay is the sole one in the valley.
Pho Nui Tinh Yeu Homestay in Moc Chau, Son La Province.
To many people in Moc Chau, Duy goes by “crazy guy”. The nickname originates from his love of the hometown; it was so strong it ended his thriving career at a leading Hanoi construction firm, drawing him back here as a proud homestay owner.
During the initial construction period, he encountered many obstacles since the area lacked electricity and basic materials. Duy personally transported every rock, steel bar, and sack of cement for the homestay on his bike. After countless arduous days, a charming and inviting homestay was erected.
That evening, Duy’s family welcomed me with a scrumptious feast of mountain specialties like jungle fowl and wild boar. After the delicious dinner, Duy started a campfire and together with his wife told me nostalgic anecdotes of their tough beginning as the crackling flames danced to the spring breeze. In a heartwarming spirit, I slipped into a deep sleep in the middle of Mu Nau Valley.
Unlike my previous visits to Moc Chau during which fog obscured the way, the following morning was vibrantly blue with fluffy clouds floating about. My first morning in Mu Nau was a tender one. While stretching, I caught the first sunrays of the day.
I then relished in a hearty breakfast that Duy’s wife had prepared ahead. After the meal, I put on a deep red H’mong dress and began another exciting day of adventure in Mu Nau Valley.
I climbed on the back of Duy’s bike to follow him through the gorgeous landscape of Mu Nau. From the homestay, I passed by pristine white bok choy flower gardens, strawberry fields, as well as old-growth forests. We eventually stopped at an apricot garden.
One simply cannot talk about Mu Nau without mentioning its three specialties: apricots, plums, and old-growth forest. For a novice, it is incredibly difficult to distinguish between an apricot and plum blossom. Their beauty is unquestionable, however.
Mu Nau apricot flowers grow by themselves. They have five round and smooth petals of one to three centimeters in diameter and are characterized by their snowy white shade. The trunk of a plum flower tree is typically taller than an apricot tree, its height varying from four to 15 meters. The petals of a plum blossom are also white but bunched up.
From the hilltop, I saw endless rows of spotless white apricot flower trees blending in the beautiful landscape of humble-sized H’mong abodes.
Moc Chau is mostly known for the poetic beauty of its enchantress, Na Ka plum valley. However, in the last two years, another hidden gem was discovered – Mu Nau plum valley. Fairy-like plum gardens stretch all over the hillsides of the valley, brightening up the Moc Chau plateau.
More than visually pleased by the rows of pristine white apricot flower trees, I climbed back on the back of Duy’s bike to visit the plum garden. Shortly after, I found myself lost in a paradise of plum flower trees and time seemed to slow down.
From the back of Duy’s trusty motorbike, I contemplated the snow white plum blossoms that fluttered throughout the garden aisles, almost resembling snow. I quickly climbed down, rushed to the trees, caressed the soft petals, and attentively watched as they flaked off branches and flooded the way.
Far off, the visual of local H’mong grazing their horses on a pasture completed the dreamy landscape.
The author, Xu Kien, amid plum blossoms.
* Before traveling to Mu Nau
Motorbikes are the only means by which to reach Mu Nau from Moc Chau Town. From the Moc Chau intersection, you can rent a motorbike taxi to Mu Nau. You could also attempt to walk to Mu Nau. However, please note it is highly recommended not to drive up to Mu Nau if you are a beginner due to the dangerous route. My suggestion is contacting Duy to book a ride at 097 492 66 96 .
Homestay Pho Nui Tinh Yeu Moc Chau is currently the sole option in Mu Nau. It offers a selection of dorm rooms as well as private rooms in a contemporary style.
Mountain specialties like wild fowl, boar, and vegetables are must-tries when in Moc Chau. It is worth noting all produce are locally grown and free of pesticides.
The most ideal time to visit Mu Nau Valley is from mid-December until early March during which apricot and plum flowers are in full bloom. March is fruiting season and April, harvest season. For the rest of the year, Mu Nau dons a green garb.
In addition to visiting apricot and plum flower gardens, Duy also organizes trekking tours to Thai and H’mong ethnic villages, departing from the homestay. The opportunity to interact with ethnic culture is truly an enriching experience one should not miss when traveling in the northwest.
The team has developed a solution applying artificial intelligence to the accurate diagnosis of Covid-19 infections and provides intervention options.
Infection patterns vary by country and territory. As a result, interventions may work in one country or territory but be less effective in another.
A total 48 teams from 17 countries were selected for the final round out of a total 104 teams from 28 countries in the semi-finals. The results will be announced at the end of February 2021.
The jury selected the VinBrain team for the final round based on the accuracy of its AI models and ability to easily interpret predictions of the solution. This approach can be used for any future pandemic response model.
Members of VinBrain in the U.S. have come up with an extensive solution to this problem by developing region-specific AI models to predict the Covid-19 infection time series in those regions. The solution was based on the classical epidemic SEIR model, which was then expanded to integrate artificial intelligence.
Amir Banifatemi, GM for Innovation and Growth at VinBrain in U.S. Photo courtesy of VinBrain .
In order to train its AI models, the team used available data like demographics, medical infrastructure, and economic indicators. A special feature used by the VinBrain team is Google Maps mobile metrics collected from worldwide Android phones in an anonymous and secure way, measuring the movements of people in public areas like parks, hospitals, workplaces, grocery stores, stations, airports.
Another unique feature used by the VinBrain team is Google’s Covid-19 infection trend data aggregated anonymously and that contains popular Covid-19 symptom-related Google searches.
The Pandemic Response Challenge co-organized by XPRIZE and Cognizant was launched in November 2020. With prize money of $500,000, the contest aims to harness the power of data and artificial intelligence to predict Covid-19 infection rates, and propose intervention plans for governments, communities and regional institutions to control the pandemic when reopening the economy.
VinBrain is an AI-focused company funded by VinGroup and its mission is to infuse AI and IoT to medicine. VinBrain aims to provide access to the best healthcare solutions, knowledge, and services. VinBrain is made up of a team of talented AI professionals with world-class experience.
Their expertise lie in the fields of computer vision, machine learning, language processing and large scale products and services. VinBrain’s AI experts work in teams despite living in many different countries and territories including Vietnam, Australia, South Korea and the United States.
Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong emphasized this at a national conference regarding the election of deputies to the 15th National Assembly and People’s Councils at all levels for the 2021-2026 term which was held in Hanoi on January 21.
The election is of particular importance, with the country currently sparing no effort to welcome the 13th National Party Congress. Indeed, this marks a major political event which is of strategic significance for the cause of continuing the comprehensive and synchronous reform, whilst boosting national development in a faster and more sustainable manner moving forward, he stated.
“This is an opportunity to exercise the people’s mastership through the selection and election of typical, truly virtuous, talented, and worthy representatives who represent the people in the NA and the People’s Council at all levels. Fully aware of the importance as well as the great significance of this election, the Party Central Committee, the NA, the Government, and the Vietnam Fatherland Front have identified this as a key political task of the entire Party, people, and army in 2021,” said Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
He therefore asked all Party committees, organisations, and agencies to assign relevant tasks to ensure that the election will achieve the best results and will be part of a truly festive holiday for all citizens.
In her closing speech, NA Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan expressed her confidence that the conference has provided guiding documents regarding the election to relevant delegates, agencies, and organisations.
The outcomes of the conference are likely to contribute to promoting the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of citizens as part of the process of building a clean, strong, effective, and efficient state apparatus. In addition, it will help all sectors and localities to competently organise election activities towards developing, consolidating, and fine-tuning a socialist country governed by laws for the Vietnamese State of the People, by the People, and for the People.
The results of the election will therefore make an important contribution to promoting democracy, building a bloc of great unity, along with successfully carrying out the goals and tasks which will be set out in the Resolutions of the 13th National Party Congress, the NA leader said.
Furthermore, NA Chairwoman Ngan stated her belief that with the Party’s concentrated leadership, along with the active and responsible involvement of the political system, the election will be conducted in accordance with regulations.
On an early weekend morning in late January, Bui Nguyen Van Nguyen sat down for a cup of coffee at Ba Lu, one of Saigon’s oldest cafés, located smack in the middle of Phung Hung Market in District 5.
After taking a sip of coffee brewed in the traditional net-filter method, Nguyen began snapping photographs of the market, cataloguing the simple beauty of everyday life in Saigon.
Such moments are typical for Nguyen who, for the past three years, has spent his time wandering around Saigon, capturing life through the perspective of his lens.
Nguyen’s love of Saigon is shown to the 106,000 followers of his Instagram account @odaucungchup , which translates to ‘taking photos everywhere.’
“It makes me happy that every day I get to wake up and realize I am in the heart of Saigon,” Nguyen told Tuoi Tre News .
|Saigon at sunset. Photo: @odaucungchup|
Nguyen’s goal is to showcase simple, familiar images of Saigon, from its narrow alleyways to its street corners covered in tangled electric wires, and everything in between.
Building his Instagram handle a place for Saigon lovers, he wrote upon his bio, “Do you guys love Saigon like me?”
Besides randomly taking photos of city life in a wide range of topics, Nguyen has also run several long-term series, including Saigon Old Texts, Saigon Houses, Saigon Alleys, Saigon Cinemas, Saigon People, Patterns of Saigon, and more.
|A photo from Bui Nguyen Van Nguyen’s Saigon Old Texts photo series|
“I’m always attracted to shops with nice old-school signs when I need to buy or repair things because I truly believe that the people in those places put love and kindness into their work,” Nguyen captioned a series depicting store signage.
The 29-year-old photographer also uploads the story behind each photo, describing his feelings about it or what he has learned of the area where the picture was taken.
“Each time I stop at my regular banh mi [ Vietnamese baguette] stall on the way to work, I’m welcomed by Ms. Bay, the owner,” Nguyen told his Instagram followers.
“She always asks me if I want to stick to my favorite choices of fillings.
“It shows me she truly cares.”
According to Nguyen, he has never had a specific plan to post a picture or a story on a certain day.
“When I’m in the mood for telling a certain story, I look for the photos in my collections, do a little retouch before recalling what happened that day,” he described the routine to run his account.
The man has the peculiar habit of ending his sentences with commas, rather than periods.
“I want to give my sentences an open ending so that readers can continue to tell stories in their own way and from their own perspectives,” Nguyen explained.
“I think it makes people more comfortable if they are free to express their thoughts after the commas.”
|A photo from Bui Nguyen Van Nguyen’s Saigon Alleys photo series|
The boy from Dak Lak
Given his devotion to the southern metropolis, most of Nguyen’s fans are surprised when they find out he is not a Saigon native, but rather a transplant from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.
Nguyen first came to Saigon 10 years ago in order to pursue higher education and has since made the city his home.
“My journey of maturing is in Saigon, with all the best moments in my life having been witnessed by the city,” he explained.
“When I was living with my family in my hometown, I was just a high school boy who didn’t know a thing about life.
“It wasn’t until I began living independently in Saigon that I started to learn what life is all about and how to live kindly.”
|Bui Nguyen Van Nguyen in a photo he provided Tuoi Tre News|
His love for the bustling city has grown ever since.
“Saigon brought many beautiful people and experiences to my life,” he said.
“When I’m away from the city, I always suffer from missing the city and its things, like a loaf of banh mi .”
Saigon has also been a city of firsts for Nguyen.
“The city brought me many first times, like the first time I had my motorbike stolen or the first time I quit a job,” he shared.
“Sometimes, when I feel really down, I stop working for a while and wander, then stop and listen to all the street sounds.
“It helps me ‘recharge my batteries,’ which gives me energy to keep moving forward.”
To Nguyen, Saigon is a huge ‘warehouse’ with endless material and inspiration.
“Saigon is like a rain,” he remarked.
“It slowly drenches you until you realize how much you love it.”
|A photo Bui Nguyen Van Nguyen took in Saigon under the theme of Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year).|
Currently, Nguyen’s only plan is to continue running the @odaucungchup Instagram account in order to share his perspective on the city with the world.
Nguyen also denied being called a photographer, saying the title is “too great” for him.
“I would like to be called a Saigon storyteller with photos,” he said.
|A photo from above by Bui Nguyen Van Nguyen shows vegetables being sold a wet market in Saigon.|
|A photo shows local people making banh ba trang , a typical dish of Chinese-Vietnamese people in Vietnam for Doan Ngo Festival, which is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar. Photo : @odaucungchup|
CANBERRA — The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a new law designed to force Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for content used on their platforms in reforms that could be replicated in other countries.
Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail.
The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users.
Subsequent amendments to the bill included giving the government the discretion to release Facebook or Google from the arbitration process if they prove they have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian news industry.
Some lawmakers and publishers have warned that could unfairly leave smaller media companies out in the cold, but both the government and Facebook have claimed the revised legislation as a win.
“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The progress of the legislation has been closely watched around the world as countries including Canada and Britain consider similar steps to rein in the dominant tech platforms.
The revised code, which also includes a longer period for the tech companies to strike deals with media companies before the state intervenes, will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, the statement said. It did not provide a start date.
The legislation does not specifically name Facebook or Google. Frydenberg said earlier this week he will wait for the tech giants to strike commercial deals with media companies before deciding whether to compel both to do so under the new law.
Google has struck a series of deals with publishers, including a global content arrangement with News Corp, after earlier threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws.
Several media companies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they are in talks with Facebook.
Representatives for both Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Thursday.