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Defunct century-old ferry in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta now water under the bridge



The Cao Lanh Ferry, located in Dong Thap Province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, is no longer around following its official shutdown last week after nearly a century of service, but it will live on in the locals’ hearts as a relic of the past and a link to the region’s culture and history.

The ferry, closed on August 24, provided transport services between Cao Lanh City and Lap Vo District in Dong Thap, which are separated by the Tien (Front) River.

The carrier, however, was much more than a means of transport.

Many locals, ferry staff, and vendors relied on the daily ferry crossings of the people they brought.

The ferry was seen as a fixture in the community, filling their childhood memories and shaping the local culture.

Cao Lanh Ferry Station was the region’s latest terminal to have stopped operations following the closure of Vam Cong, one of its counterparts, in May last year.

The ferries were integral to the socio-economic growth of each town they served, particularly as large bridges were only introduced in relatively recent times.

Given the shutdowns, the feelings of nostalgia have cast a gloomy shadow over those who have spent decades maintaining the route.

Farewell to a faithful friend

At 9:20 pm on August 23, the last ferry docked at Ward 6 in Cao Lanh City, the capital of Dong Thap Province, wrapping up its century-long voyage.

Three continuous toots to signal the routine docking sounded like a farewell to its passengers.

Nguyen Van Tinh, the 44-year-old captain of a 60-metric-ton ferry, disembarked from his last ferry ride after taking some last photos of the terminal.

The ferry terminal was unusually crowded on its last operation day, as local residents and visitors flocked to witness its very last moments.

Apart from his two-year apprenticeship starting in 2003, Tinh had worked as a ferry captain for over 15 years.

“My heart is sinking though there are so many passengers today. It’s undeniable that ferries will be a thing of the past once bridges are built, but goodbye is quite hard to say,” Tinh shared.

“No matter which ferry station I will be transferred to, memories of Cao Lanh Ferry will never fade in my mind.”

Nguyen Van Tinh, a seasoned captain, is pictured during his last ride on the Cao Lanh Ferry, which was in operation for nearly 100 years in Cao Lanh City, the heart of Dong Thap Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Thanh Nhon / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Van Tinh, a seasoned captain, is pictured during his last ride on the Cao Lanh Ferry, which was in operation for nearly 100 years in Cao Lanh City, the heart of Dong Thap Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Thanh Nhon / Tuoi Tre

Tinh recalled how busy the ferry terminal was just a few years ago, with many of its passengers being students due to its proximity to a local university.

“Before and during the Tet [Lunar New Year] holiday and Ba Chua Xu [Holy Mother of the Realm] Festival, there would be line-ups of vehicles stretching for kilometers. It was hard work but we were thrilled serving as a bridge to their year-end family reunions,” Tinh recounted.

Ba Chua Xu is a prosperity goddess who is worshipped in her temple snuggled at the foot of Sam Mountain in Chau Doc District, located in neighboring An Giang Province, as part of Vietnamese folk religions.

A three-day festival is held on the 23rd day of the fourth lunar month for pilgrims from across the region to pay tribute.

Prior to the completion of Cao Lanh Bridge, Cao Lanh Ferry boasted a round-the-clock fleet comprised of ten ferries with capacities of up to 100 metric tons.

The daily traffic volume averaged more than 13,600 motorbikes and 2,000 automobiles.  

Since the Cao Lanh Bridge was opened to traffic in May 2018, only two small-capacity ferries remained in operation from 4:30 am to 9:00 pm, transporting approximately 2,000 vehicles on a daily basis.

With each ride averaging 15-18 minutes, Tinh performed 60-64 rides each day prior to the ferry terminal shutdown.

“After Cao Lanh Bridge was inaugurated, I had to part with several staff members, who were repositioned to other ferry terminals such as Sa Dec and Phong Hoa [also located in Dong Thap Province]. I’m staying put to look after the [Cao Lanh] terminal until I get moved to another place,” he said sadly.

Tran Van Tinh, another ferry captain, shared his colleague Tinh’s nostalgia, revealing he had been transferred back to Phong Hoa Ferry.

This is not the first time his route has been shut down.

He had previously worked at Vam Cong Ferry before getting moved to Dai Ngai Ferry in Soc Trang Province, which then got closed down when a bridge opened up nearby, leading his colleagues to joke that any terminal he is transferred to next is in real trouble. 

Tinh later switched to Phong Hoa Ferry to be closer to his home, and began his job as a mechanic at Cao Lanh Ferry around two months ago.

“At least I’ve got transferred to another ferry because I’m so glad to continue my job on the rivers,” he said.

Other workers who have devoted their lives to the Cao Lanh ferry crossing expressed a similar sadness, explaining they would miss the ferry’s bustling atmosphere during rush hours and public holidays.

A means of livelihood

Ho Van Buu, a 49-year-old conductor who had worked at the terminal for nearly 20 years, was also concerned about vendors and stall owners who make a living in the surrounding area. 

Among them is Nguyen Thi Thoi, who runs a stall with dumplings and soft drinks near the terminal. As her number of clients has dropped in recent years, the 64-year-old woman has relied on odd jobs including peeling cashew nuts in her free time to supplement her income.     

“I’ve been selling things around the terminal for the past 33 years, even before the inauguration of My Thuan Bridge [in 2000]. I previously ran a sidewalk eatery before switching to the dumpling and drink stall due to the drop in customers. Clients will come few and far between after the [Cao Lanh] ferry line stops,” she shared.

My Thuan Bridge’s opening also ended the eponymous ferry service around that time.

The money earned allowed Thoi to provide for her two children and afford them a proper education. 

Despite the cessation of the ferry line, the senior woman said she would still stick to her stall as she had no other choice.

Passengers board the very last ferry of Cao Lanh Ferry, which was in operation for nearly 100 years in Cao Lanh City, the heart of Dong Thap Province, southern Vietnam, August 23, 2020. Photo: Thanh Nhon / Tuoi Tre

Passengers use the very last service of Cao Lanh Ferry, which was in operation for nearly 100 years in Cao Lanh City, the heart of Dong Thap Province, southern Vietnam, August 23, 2020. Photo: Thanh Nhon / Tuoi Tre

Phuong Thi My, 48, a lottery peddler around the terminal, also said the income earned from the tickets supplemented her husband’s meager earnings as a garden keeper. 

“With around 150 [lottery] tickets sold to ferry passengers every day, I can earn over VND100,000 [US$4] for my four-member family. Sure I will be able to sell fewer tickets once the ferry line stops,” she said sadly.   

People who live in the surrounding area also feel a sense of nostalgia for the ferry line and similar sadness for parting with the ferry staff whom they consider their own next of kin. 

“I’m not traveling on the [Cao Lanh] bridge today and instead come here to take the last ferry ride. I’ve ridden on the ferries since I was a young child, and I’ve been on a first-name basis with all the crew, staff, and vendors here. Separation is always hard for us to accept,” Nguyen Bao Son, a local resident, shared.

Four generations working as ferry captains

Nguyen Van Son, 40, takes great pride that four generations of his family were dedicated to Cao Lanh Ferry as ferry captains.

“My great grandfather worked as a captain back in 1934, followed by my paternal grandfather. My father and I later followed suit. We all worked as ferry captains. Upon the inauguration of Cao Lanh Bridge, I was transferred to Sa Dec Ferry, but still consider Cao Lanh Ferry my home,” Son shared.

Cao Lan Ferry history

The Cao Lanh Ferry was put into operation nearly 100 years ago. Its original name was Tan Tich and was later changed to Bac Cao Lanh.

The Dong Thap People’s Committee changed the name of the ferry service to Cao Lanh in 1992.

In May 2018, the $307 million Cao Lanh Bridge was inaugurated to provide a faster way to travel between Cao Lanh City and Lap Vo District, as well as improving traffic connectivity in the Mekong Delta.

The structure, which is two kilometers long and 25 meters wide, features four lanes for motorized vehicles and two for bicycles, with the design speed of 80 kilometers per hour and a navigation clearance of around 38 meters.

The operation of the Cao Lanh Ferry was thus downsized to a few journeys a day.

However, many residents still preferred to use the ferry service with ease, as they would need to cover a distance before being able to cross the Cao Lanh Bridge.

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Your Vietnam

Art club members showcase new ceramic sculptures



LOCAL ART: A corner of the exhibition titled ‘Gốm Mỹ Thuật Sài Gòn 2023’ (Sài Gòn Artistic Ceramics 2023) which is opening at the HCM City Fine Arts Association. Photo courtesy of the association

HCM CITY Members of the Sài Gòn Ceramic Art Club are presenting their latest works at a sculpture exhibition at the HCM City Fine Arts Association.

The exhibition titled “Gốm Mỹ Thuật Sài Gòn 2023” (Sài Gòn Artistic Ceramics 2023) displays 135 sculptures created by 58 artists, featuring various styles, topics and languages.

The artists’ works tell different stories about Vietnamese culture, heritage, religion and environment. Themes of life, love, and motherhood are also included. 

The exhibition’s highlight is a group of sculptures named Tiếng Vọng (The Echo) by 80-year-old painter-sculptor Lê Triều Điển.

The self-taught artist is known for paintings and ceramic sculptures about the people, culture, and lands of his homeland, the south-western region. He has participated in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad — Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, China, and France.  

The showcase also includes works by sculptors such as Huỳnh Thanh Phú and Nguyễn Văn Trung.

Phú brought to the exhibition a sculpture named Sinh (Childbirth), reflecting his sense of the world and life.

BUDDHIST INSPIRATION: Sculptor Nguyễn Văn Trung presents statues of Bodhidharma at the exhibition. Photo courtesy of the association

Meanwhile, Trung introduced his statues of Bodhidharma in different sizes and styles. 

Trung said he has a strong passion for Buddhist art, particularly sculpting Buddhist statues. He spent six years researching and making the Bodhidharma statues.

According to Nguyễn Xuân Tiên, chairman of the city’s Fine Arts Association, all the works in the exhibition were created during the sculpture symposium held in Bình Dương Province in June. The symposium is the association’s annual activity to encourage artists to find inspiration, meet and share their experiences, as well as to promote ceramic art in HCM City and neighbouring provinces.

The exhibition remains open until August 5 at 218A Pasteur Street in District 3. — VNS


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Young artists honour traditional crafts of Mekong Delta on YouTube show



Miss Grand International 2021 Nguyễn Thúc Thuỳ Tiên collects ‘cỏ bàng’ (Lepironia), a kind of sedge, in the first episode of the YouTube show called ‘Nông Dân’ (The Apprentice Farmer) to honour the traditional crafts and culture of the Mekong River Delta. Photo courtesy of the producer

HCM CITY — Young Vietnamese artists are presenting a YouTube show highlighting the culture and traditional crafts of the Mekong River Delta.

The show, entitled Nông Dân (The Apprentice Farmer), consists of six episodes, featuring the journey of Miss Grand International 2021 Nguyễn Thúc Thuỳ Tiên, singer Đức Phúc, and streamer MisThy as they discover the daily life of people in the region and how they preserve local traditional crafts.

The show also highlights the beauty of the region with green rice paddles, beautiful lotus ponds, and peaceful rivers, along with specialties such as bánh xèo (sizzling rice pancakes), and bánh tráng sữa (milk rice paper).

According to Tiên, Nông Dân reflects their love of the agricultural culture, the beauty of work, and the magnificence of nature. It is also a bridge to connect young people like them to the traditional cultural values of the country.

In the first episode released on July 27, the artists travelled to Tân Phước, a rural district of Tiền Giang Province, to learn about turning cỏ bàng (Lepironia), a kind of sedge, into beautiful traditional handicraft products such as bags, hats, and sleeping mats.

They spent two days collecting and processing sedge, and learning weaving with skilled craftswomen in Phú Mỹ Village, one of the oldest cỏ bàng weaving villages in the region.

Tiên said, “The job is really too hard. It requires strength, patience, sharp eyes, and caution.”

The first episode has received good comments from audiences, earning more than 307,000 views in the two days after its release.

Trần Hoài Anh of Đồng Nai Province said that “the show is funny and meaningful. It provides useful information on Vietnamese traditional crafts and life in the Mekong Delta to the community, particularly young people like me. It also reminds us of our responsibility in preserving and promoting the country’s culture.”

The show is broadcast at 8pm every Thursday on Nong Tiên Official’s YouTube channel. – VNS


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Morocco & Việt Nam: Strengthening Bonds and Fostering Collaboration



Moroccan ambassador Jamale Chouaibi wrote to Việt Nam News on Moroccan Throne Day (July 30)

The annual celebration of Throne Day in the Kingdom of Morocco on July 30 is a commemoration of the enthronement of His Majesty King Mohammed VI in 1999.

It serves as an opportunity for Moroccans to express their loyalty and devotion to the monarchy, as the King is revered as the Commander of the Faithful and a symbol of unity in the country.

During his reign of 24 years, Morocco has undergone significant political, economic, and social reforms under the guidance of His Majesty. These reforms have been carried out through an inclusive and participative approach, leading to impressive achievements that have positioned Morocco as a leading country in its region in terms of stability, poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, and investment inflow.

One notable accomplishment is the country’s transformation into a manufacturing hub, attracting international companies in the automotive and aircraft industries. Morocco has also been recognised, alongside Việt Nam, as one of the 25 countries that successfully halved multidimensional poverty in the past 15 years, as reported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Presentation to King Mohammed VI of the first Moroccan consumer car brand and the prototype of a Moroccan-initiated hydrogen vehicle. Photo Maghreb Arab Press

Furthermore, Morocco is making significant progress in meeting its target of increasing the share of renewables in its electricity mix to 52 per cent by 2030.

The country currently ranks as the first African country and 24th worldwide in terms of maritime connectivity.

In recent years, Morocco has also undertaken mega infrastructure projects, solidifying its position as the top country in Africa in terms of infrastructure quality.

Additionally, it boasts the best financial centre on the continent.

Morocco continues to fulfill its role as a committed and responsible actor on the international, continental, and regional stages. The country has hosted numerous high-level international and regional meetings, showcasing its unwavering commitment to multilateralism, South-South cooperation, and addressing common challenges such as peace and security, migration, counterterrorism, and climate change.

The celebration of the 24th anniversary of His Majesty’s enthronement coincides with the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Việt Nam.

I would like to extend my congratulations to Việt Nam for its exceptional economic performance and resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has garnered global acclaim.

I am pleased to note that the two countries maintain close coordination and mutual support in international organisations and multilateral forums. Despite virtual interactions over the past two years due to the pandemic, the first meeting of the subcommittee on trade and industrial cooperation was held in Rabat in June 2022. During this meeting, both sides identified strategic cooperation areas in trade of agricultural products, energy, textiles, chemicals, fertilizer production, mining, and mineral processing.

The visit of the Prosecutor General of the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Việt Nam to Morocco has further enhanced our cooperation, expanding it into new fields.

The appointment of an Honorary Consul in Hồ Chí Minh City by the Kingdom of Morocco exemplifies the commitment of both countries to further enhance and expand their bilateral partnership.

In the coming years, our Embassy, together with the Honorary Consul, will focus on facilitating direct interaction between Vietnamese and Moroccan economic stakeholders.

Port of Tanger Med, North Morocco. Photo Maghreb Arab Press

This approach aims to achieve more substantial results in terms of trade exchange and the consolidation of our economic partnership. It is also a priority to encourage the establishment of joint ventures between leading corporations in each country, such as the OCP Group and Petro Vietnam Fertilizers and Chemical Corporation.

Another priority is to enhance cooperation, partnership, and the exchange of experiences and expertise in areas where each country holds comparative advantages, such as manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, and renewable energy.

Given Việt Nam’s emphasis on developing economic cooperation with Africa, Morocco can serve as a bridge between Việt Nam and the continent.

Morocco has a substantial presence in Africa in sectors like banking, insurance, energy, and telecommunications, making it the top investor in West Africa and the second investor at the continental level.

Morocco seeks to further develop ties with ASEAN and has already acceded to the TAC treaty, MRC as a partner, and AIPA observer status.

In this pursuit, Morocco counts on the invaluable support of Việt Nam to gain more access to the promising regional market where Việt Nam plays a pivotal role. Morocco’s aspiration is to obtain SDP status, and it hopes for Việt Nam’s support during the next ASEAN Summit in September to confirm the agreement in principle given to its candidacy.

With our shared strong political will, I am confident that the partnership between Morocco and Việt Nam will continue to strengthen and gain momentum in the coming years. VNS


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