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Vietnamese Blogger Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison for Reporting on Catastrophic Toxic Spill

A Vietnamese court recently sentenced 22-year-old blogger and journalist Nguyen Van Hoa to seven years in prison for reporting on the 2016 Formosa spill that devastated the Vietnamese coast. Arrested in April, Hoa had produced video footage, photos, and articles about Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group’s April 2016 toxic chemical spill from its steel plant located at the port in Ha Tinh. According to state-run media, he stands accused of “propagating against, distorting and defaming the government.”

The People’s Court of Ha Tinh province found Hoa guilty of violating Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code and also ruled that he be placed under house arrest for three years after his jail term is complete. No attorney was present to represent Hao in the closed trial.

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Vietnam’s “Old Flames” Market, Where Jilted Lovers Sell Memorabilia from Failed Relationships

In Hanoi Vietnam, a young entrepreneur called Dinh Thang has found a creative solution to the post break-up blues. Instead of wallowing among the leftover relics of failed relationships, such as love letters and clothing, Thang has boxed them up and put a price tag on them. In February 2017 he founded the Old Flames Market where the broken hearted can gather together and sell the remnants of their affairs to curious customers.

“This fair is only one of those many cool ideas my friends and I came up with after a chit chat about ex-girlfriends, boyfriends, and things,” Thang told Vietnam News*. “After the break-ups, we found there were many objects left in our homes by old lovers, and we do not want to see them again since they remind us of unhappy memories. However, these things were still in good shape. It would harm the environment if we tossed them away. Then, we thought we should make an exchange with other people, so the objects would find new owners. They can buy new, good objects and we protect the environment. It’s a win-win.”

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Vietnamese Woman Has 3-Meter “Hair Snake” Growing Out of Her Scalp

We’ve seen people grow their hair ridiculously long before, but what sets 81-year-old Trinh Thi Nghien is that her 3-meter-long locks are bundled together in a thick mass that looks like a snake curled on her head. She claims it just started growing like this 22 years ago, and it hasn’t stopped since.

Trinh Thi Nghien’s “dragon hair” recently went viral on Vietnamese social media, with people asking how the 81-year-old woman could bare living with what looks like a pile of unkempt hair for so long. But the woman claims that it wasn’t by choice. Her hair was perfectly normal until 1995, when she noticed a bun of tangled up hair on the back of her head. She tried untangling it with a comb, but to no avail, so she just cut it off. However, it started growing back the same way, and the longer it got, the thicker it became. After cutting it off several times, she decided to just let it grow, and today, 22 years later, her dragon hair measures a whopping 3 meters long.

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Vietnamese Woman Claims to Have Invented Safe Plant-Based Herbicide, Drinks a Bottle to Prove It

Phung Thi Hung, chair of Hanoi-based Cat Tuong Technology and Import/Export Company, recently shocked people in her home country after consuming a bottle of what she called a very effective plant-based herbicide, to prove that it was safe for humans.

The unusual demonstration took place on April 21, during a workshop on controlling pests and protecting plants with biological methods in green agriculture. Phung Thi Hung was presenting her company’s latest products, a line of herbal herbicides that are very effective in preventing the growth of weeds while being completely safe for humans. To prove her claims, the female entrepreneur took a bottle of red fluid, which she said was one of her new herbicides, and gulped it down in front of the audience. She was joined in her demonstration by Dr Nguyen Dang Nghia, director of the Southern Research Center for Soil, Fertilizer and Environment, who also drank a whole bottle of the stuff. They are both reportedly still breathing.

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Vietnamese Man Hasn’t Clipped His Fingernails in Over 35 Years

Luu Cong Huyen, a 58-year-old man from Yen Giao, in Vietnam’s Nam Dinh province, has been growing his fingernails for over three and a half decades, and takes great care to avoid any activity that might cause him to accidentally break on of his keratinous treasures, even bathing.

If you’re hoping to find a good reason for why anybody would want to grow their fingernails for over 35 years, you’re not going to find one here. For Mr. Huyen it simply started out as a hobby that he never really got over. “Others like raising birds, planting trees or collecting old vehicles… I just like growing long nails,” he says. “Raising nails is more difficult than parenting. I must be very careful in every move to keep my nails.”

Huyen is not exaggerating one bit. His fingernails, the longest of which measures about 55 centimeters, may look thick and sturdy, but he claims they can break very easily, especially when wet. Which is why he avoids even touching water as much as he can, and rarely bathes. When it rains outside, he covers his hands with plastic bags, so that the water doesn’t reach his precious nails.

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Woman Hires Someone to Cut Off Her Hand and Foot So She Can Claim Health Insurance

A young Vietnamese woman recently shocked police after admitting that she had paid someone to cut off her left hand and foot, so she could claim a health insurance payoff of roughly $180,000.

The extreme insurance scam reportedly began in May, when a 30-year-old woman named only as Ly Thi N convinced an acquaintance to cut of her left arm and foot in exchange for 50 million dong ($2,200). The plan was to make it look like she had been hit by a train, so the cold-blooded accomplice, named as Doan Van D, acted like a bystander who just happened to find her injured near a railroad in Hanoi. He was the one who called an ambulance and notified the police about the “accident”.

Ly Thi N was found lying in the ground with a severed hand and leg, and the woman told police that she had wandering near the railway track when a train passed by and dragged her under it. Doan Van D, who she described as a total stranger, just happened to pass by and ended up saving her life. At first, everyone thought that the victim was lucky to be alive, but policemen investigating the accident became suspicious after learning that the woman and the 21-year-old who allegedly found her by accident actually knew each other quite well. Read More »

Fair Beauty – Vietnam’s Obsession with White Skin

For most Vietnamese women, white skin is synonymous with feminine beauty, sophistication and high social status, and many of them cover themselves completely even in the middle of summer in order to protect their fair complexion from the sun’s rays.

In Vietnam, as in the majority of South East Asian countries, dark skin has always been associated with poverty and peasants working in paddy fields exposed to the mercy of the elements. So while in the Western world tanned skin is seen as healthy and beautiful, in countries like Vietnam, Japan or Indonesia, it is so frowned upon that it can sometimes be enough to drive away potential suitors in arranged marriages among middle-class families.

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Rare Vietnamese Chicken Breed Has the Weirdest Legs You’ve Ever Seen

You might find its freakishly butch legs rather repulsive, but believe it or not, the Dong Tao chicken is incredibly popular in Vietnam. Once reserved for royalty and ritual offerings, the rare breed is now prized by chicken breeders and its meat is served in exclusive restaurants that cater to the wealthy.

An adult Dong Tao chicken can grow up to weigh three to six kilograms, with legs as thick as a human’s wrist. The hens are generally white, while the cocks have colorful feathers. Dong Tao meat is considered far more delicious than regular chickens, explaining its high demand and incredibly steep price tag.

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Vietnamese Hairdresser Cuts Hair with Samurai Swords

Meet Nguyen Hoang Hung, a sword-wielding hairdresser from Vietnam. Believe it or not, this man actually cuts his clients’ hair with a sword! And his unusual ‘weapon of choice’ doesn’t affect the speed or quality of his haircuts – he manages to produce brilliant results every single time.

Hung said that he picked up the unique skill four years ago, when he participated in a game show where he was required to cut hair without scissors. He had used a handsaw at the time, and enjoyed the process immensely. Later, he evolved to the more sophisticated sword as a haircutting tool.

He began by using it on women with longer hair, and then moved on to shorter styles like bobs and pixie cuts. He admitted that it was difficult and risky at first, but he just kept practicing on training wigs. And after four years of rigorous, unrelenting practice, Hung is now able to create beautiful hairstyles within minutes.

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The Art of Crossing the Street in Vietnam

If you plan to visit Vietnam, prepare to forget everything you ever learned about crossing the street. Forget about waiting for the traffic to stop, forget about zebra crossings, and forget about traffic lights. Because in Vietnam, people cross the street by charging right ahead, weaving their way through moving traffic. It’s the only way to do it!

It sounds dangerous, I agree, but it also seems kind of fun, in an adrenalin-pumping kind of way. I’ve just spent the past hour reading about how it’s done. This is from a Vietnam Travel & Living Guide: “You want to get to the other end of the street but it does not look quite feasible. Unless you try it. Crossing over the jam is actually not that bad. You will just have to do it. The magic is that no one will ever run into you.”

I watched a few videos as well; it really does seem like magic. The streets are filled with moving scooters and cars, and the pedestrians just flit across effortlessly. They seem to maintain an intense focus on the oncoming vehicles, finding gaps and moving through them slowly but steadily. There’s just no other way, given the fact that traffic is a nightmare in major Vietnamese cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh.

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Share a Coffee with Snakes and Scorpions at Vietnam’s Popular Pet Cafe

If you love dogs, cats and cute, cuddly bunnies, then Vietnam’s Pet Café is certainly not the place for you. It exists to serve a totally different kind of animal lover. Located in the capital city of Hanoi, the café has an awesome collection of snakes, rats, lizards, tarantulas and even a few hedgehogs, stored in glass cages of various sizes. As you sit at your table and share a coffee with a friend, you can gaze upon these slow-moving reptiles in replicas of their natural habitats. And if you’re feeling a little brave, you could even ask to touch or play with them.

28-year-old Nguyen Minh Nghia, the owner of Pet Café, has a degree in mining and geology, but is now a stockbroker. He has been obsessed with animals since childhood, and that’s what prompted him to start the café. “I loved animals since I was a little boy. I began raising reptiles 5 years ago, when a friend asked me to feed his salamanders as he was too preoccupied with his own business,” Nguyen said.

He fell in love with the creatures and ended up traveling to Thailand, Singapore, Australia and China, amassing a huge collection of snakes, salamanders and other reptiles that are now his best friends. “These pets are easy to feed, but for beginners, it is not a walk in the park,” he said. “You have to read a lot of materials to learn how to raise reptiles. I’ve chosen reptiles that are suited for the environment and climate in Vietnam. To keep them alive here, I’ve got to study a lot about their living environment. My café is always dark because many reptiles do not like the light.”

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The Rumbling Train Track Street of Hanoi

I thought that Thailand’s Railway Food Market was the only one of its kind in the world. Turns out I was wrong. A similar railway track exists in Vietnam as well – this one doesn’t pass through a busy market place like its Thai counterpart, but a narrow residential neighborhood. The video footage of the train shows it passing mere inches from the front doors of people living in the capital city of Hanoi.

Hanoi is pretty much iconic for its narrow buildings and streets. And since the main train station is right in the heart of the city, it’s no surprise that the train tracks pass by busy streets. The section of tracks that leads to Long Bien Bridge passes through Old Quarter, which is a densely populated residential area. The houses here are so close to the tracks that people could easily get smacked if they don’t watch their step, or decide to stick their hands out the window at the wrong time. Luckily, the trains go by only twice a day.

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Real-Life Tarzans Found Living Deep in Vietnam’s Forests

40 years ago, during the Vietnam War, Ho Van Thanh was seen running into the woods with his then-infant son Ho Van Lang. They hadn’t been seen since, until a few days ago when two villagers accidentally stumbled upon their bamboo hut deep in the forests of Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province.

No one imagined Ho Van Tranh could have survived for 40 years, after he disappeared into the jungle in 1973. A bomb exploded in his home during the war with the United States, killing his wife and two other children, and eye-witnesses reported seeing him grab his two-year-old sun Ho Van Lang and running into the forest. But just a few days ago, the impossible happened. Two villagers from the Tay Tra district who had ventured 40 kilometers into the lush jungle looking for firewood noticed a strange bird-nest-like hut built in a small clearing, near a stream. Curious about its origin they decided to investigate and found two men living inside. The weak 82-year-old man could communicate in the in the Cor ethnic minority language, but his 41-year-old son, who was wearing a loin cloth made from tree bark, only spoke a few words. The villagers alerted the authorities who later confirmed the two mysterious jungle dwellers were indeed Ho Van Tranh and Ho Van Lang.

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Vietnamese Artist Carves Bamboo Roots into Beautiful Statuettes

For the past seven years, Vietnamese artist Huynh Phuong Do, from Hoi An, has been making a name for himself by carving beautiful portraits of Buddhist deities and historical figures out of bamboo stumps and roots.

Huynh Phuong Do relaunched his artistic career completely by accident. He had been carving wood since he was 15-years-old, but living in Hoi An, famously known as Vietnam’s Bamboo Village, it was hard for him to stand out among dozens of other talented craftsmen and sculptors. But one day, seven years ago, floods in the upper reaches of the Thu Bon River brought bamboo stumps to the river bank in front of his house. The debris stirred something in Do’s mind, and he took a few stumps to make sculptures out of them. Little did he know this was the beginning of a very successful business. Today, Huynh Phuong Do has his own sculpture showroom, and his works can be found in over 20 Hoi An souvenir shops. He spends all his days contemplating bamboo roots, thinking of ways to give them a realistic human appearance, and struggles to make between 200 and 300 pieces a month to keep up with demand from tourists.

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Vietnam Festival Is Dedicated to Meeting Ex-Lovers

Most people cannot stand the thought of their partners even talking to their exes, let alone socializing with them. But things are different in a small community of Vietnam. A yearly ‘love market’ of sorts is held in the hillside village of Khau Vai, 500km north of Hanoi, near the border with China. It takes place each year, on the 26th and the 27th of the third month of the lunar calendar. During these two days, hundreds of ex-lovers from various hill tribes like Nung, Tay, San Chi, Lo Lo, Dzao, Giay and Hmong are reunited. They trek in from various mountainous districts nearby to be able to spend two days with the ones they could not spend their lives with.

This concept might sound extremely unusual to us, and there might be every possibility of a cat-fight breaking out if this unique love festival was held anywhere else in the world. But the people of Khau Vai have a strong reason for the celebrating their love market. It has been a part of their tradition for centuries, originating from a local legend. The story is rather sad – an ethnic Giay girl from Ha Giang had fallen for a Nung boy from Cao Bang., but she is said to have been so beautiful that her tribe did not want her to marry a man from another community. What followed was a bloody war between the two tribes. As the lovers witnessed the tragedy that surrounded their lives, they decided to part ways in the greater interest of peace. But their love did not die there. A secret pact was made between the lovers to meet each other once a year in Khau Vai– on the 27th day of the third Lunar month. The tradition is still being carried on today. On the designated days of the festival, local artists decked up in colorful clothes reenact this tale of forbidden love.

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