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Finding a way forward for street food in Ho Chi Minh City

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The story of a street food vendor who survived the COVID-19 pandemic in Ho Chi Minh City was told at a conference in the city and got the audience thinking about how to help them in the post-pandemic phase.

“Because of the pandemic, I could not work for many days, so my resources dried up. Thanks to 100 eggs and a bag of flour I had received from a person, I tried to sell fried rice flour cakes again, hoping to make ends meet,” recalls Nam, a woman who has worked as a street vendor in Ho Chi Minh City for more than 30 years.

The disastrous encounter was unprecedented for her in those decades.

Many vendors never come back

Indeed, Nam’s demanding situation is not uncommon. According to a survey conducted by Social Life and Oxfam in Vietnam, more than 60 percent of street vendors in Vietnam face a lack of capital due to the prolonged pandemic.

Despite generating more than 13 percent of the city’s gross domestic product (GDP), street vendors, sometimes considered informal workers, have faced many difficulties since the COVID- 19 pandemic broke out in Vietnam in 2020.

Even though the restrictions associated with COVID-19 have been lifted, no one can say for sure how many stalls have reopened and how many street vendors will never return.

Moreover, as eaters, we cannot know what stories lie behind the smiles of the street vendors we encounter every day.

More importantly, are there things we can do to help them? Are there ways we can offer to help street vendors return to their familiar working environment and become an integral part of the city life as they have been for a long time.

These were some of the questions raised in the talk show titled “Ẩm thực đường phố, ngồi xuống kể nghe!” (Street food, please sit down and let us tell).

The show was co-hosted by Dear Our community and RICE Content, Media, Oxfam, Social Life Research Institute and Sai Gon Um Company Ltd.

Increasing vulnerability

Let’s get back to Nam, the street vendor from the first part of the article.

She first came to Ho Chi Minh City to work when she was 27 years old and had two children. At the time, she never imagined that her life would be attached to the city for this long.

The woman worked hand-to-mouth in the city for 11 years as an assistant at a stand selling sugar cane juice, learning the secrets of mixing the drink from a friendly male street vendor. She also sold fried rice flour cakes with scotch eggs twice a day.

Selling the Chinese-influenced snack helped Nam raise her children. They grew up and she has already become a grandmother thanks to the stand.

Unfortunately, her life and work were turned upside down when the pandemic broke out.

The disease devastated street vendors like Nam. The impact was worst for vendors who depend on familiar customers and are unfamiliar with food-sharing apps or platforms.

According to Dr. Nguyen Duc Loc, head of the Social Life Research Institute, most street vendors work “hand-to-mouth” with their income being just enough to cover expenses.

Despite limited resources, it is often enough for people to start a family. In another way, the amount of money shows the spirit and determination of immigrants.

According to Duc Loc, the migrant workers do not expect to receive more monetary donations.

They just hope that the pandemic will soon phase out and they will find a way to reopen their stalls. As independent workers, they are used to living on their own and are willing to help others in the same situation.

“Their ‘capital’ for business is their own lives,” Loc says, adding that their experience and skills have contributed to Ho Ci Minh City’s flexibility, openness, and generosity.

However, there are many customer behaviors that have changed during the ongoing pandemic.

The street vendors like Nam (vendors who do not know how to take advantage of technology in their work) are compared to leaves lying on the street, vulnerable to changing winds.

They are workers who need more help than others given this vulnerability.

Offering a path to the future

“When I look at the markets, the areas of the stalls that once attracted so many customers and were rated by famous international broadcasters, it makes me so sad,” chef Nickie Tran, owner of the Kau Ba Quan restaurant chain, shared his thoughts.

“The beauty of street food is not in an app to order the food to be conveniently served on the spot, but in special street vendors like Nam,” added the man, who is also the administrator of the food review group Saigon Um on Facebook with more than 800,000 members.

As for Nickie Tran, vendors like Nam are different from others in their friendliness to customers. They are vendors who are willing to keep a tab for diners if they forget to bring money, give a discount, or even give food for free when they meet a person in need.

“Street food is a beauty of Saigon. If it were not for these street vendors, Saigon would not be the Saigon city it used to be,” Nickie Tran said.

Nickie Tran shared how the Saigon Um group has worked so far. He said his community group often looks for street vendors like Nam and young entrepreneurs who open a local food business to author reports about their products.

“Our members not only write about food, but also share memories and stories about the city’s residents, who help create the beauty of culinary street food experiences in the city,” Nickie Tran told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

The administrator of Saigon Um is proud of his group’s non-profit work and of being a trusted food news source for the public.

However, he also admitted that his group has not done much to help street vendors, especially in this difficult period.

Nickie Tran hoped the vendors will also be treated more equally.

“They do not depend on the city, nor do they make the city uglier. On the contrary, they contribute both physical and spiritual values to society. It is more important that we make plans for street food with a kinder and more loving approach,” he added.

Dr. Nguyen Duc Loc suggested, “We need more practical projects starting from different resources.”

According to Loc, who has been working as a researcher and consultant on projects to solve social problems in Vietnam since 2004, especially those affecting disadvantaged groups, the youth can give a helping hand to vendors who have limited ability to use technology.

“Vendors like Nam have great difficulty adapting to food apps or platforms, but young people can help them. Let us “sell” street food stories to tourists as an interesting feature,” suggested Nguyen Duc Loc.

“While many products need stories to be promoted, street food already has its own stories. It is our job to pay attention to them, listen carefully and bring them to the public,” he added.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/ttnewsstyle/20220421/finding-a-way-forward-for-street-food-in-ho-chi-minh-city/66706.html

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Ho Chi Minh City zoo uses elephant dung to make paper

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The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Ho Chi Minh City recently collaborated with a group of Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH) students in transforming elephant dung into paper.

After eight months of research, the first elephant dung papers were produced. 

Even though some of them cannot be used, the crew has been continuously developing chemical-free procedures to make paper from elephant excrement in order to raise awareness of wildlife protection.

Zookeepers at Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens collect elephant dung at the animal’s enclosure. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Zookeepers at Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens collect elephant dung at the animal’s enclosure. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Elephants consume primarily grass and vegetables, therefore their feces are clumpy and high in fiber. In the past, their excrement was either discarded or used as fertilizer.

According to Dang Kieu Anh, a HUTECH major in animal husbandry, the group recycles excrement into paper every weekend.

“The first step in turning elephant dung into paper is washing the waste to remove impurities, leaving only the fiber for recycling,” Anh said.

Mai Khac Trung Truc, director of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, washes the elephant dung. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Mai Khac Trung Truc, director of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, washes the elephant dung. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

“Following this, the fiber will be boiled to eliminate bacteria and odor.

“The boiled fiber will then be sun-dried and blended. 

“The blended fiber will be mixed with water, paper pulp, and tapioca starch.

“The final products will be obtained by pouring the mixture into a mold and exposing it to the sun for drying.”

The blended elephant dung is being mixed with paper pulp and tapioca starch. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

The blended elephant dung is being mixed with paper pulp and tapioca starch. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Mai Khac Trung Truc, director of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, stated that some countries have already succeeded in producing paper from elephant dung, which is an excellent idea considering the declining forest area and the decreasing number of elephants in the wild and in captivity.

“With the aim to recycle elephant dung, the product may inspire everyone to work together to protect the environment and elephants,” Truc said.

“Every 100 grams of mixed elephant dung may typically be recycled into seven to eight sheets of paper with the same thickness.

“To make the paper more usable, we are now studying methods to enhance its quality. 

“We have no plans to sell the sheets to the public.

“We will supply paper for children’s educational materials.”

A student pours the mixture of elephant dung into a tray. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

A student pours the mixture of elephant dung into a tray. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Students filter the mixture through a mold, leaving paper paste residue. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

Students filter the mixture through a mold, leaving paper paste residues. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

The finished products of elephant dung paper. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

The finished products of elephant dung paper. Photo: Ngoc Phuong – Phuong Quyen / Tuoi Tre

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/ttnewsstyle/20220705/ho-chi-minh-city-zoo-uses-elephant-dung-to-make-paper/67949.html

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Vocational school students present recycled items at environmental protection event in Da Nang

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Hundreds of unique recycled products created by vocational school students were presented at an environmental protection event in Da Nang City, central Vietnam on Saturday.

Taking place at the Da Nang Vocational Training College, the event was organized for the first time by the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training under the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs.

Its goal was to promote a green lifestyle and students’ roles in environmental protection, contribute to the establishment of green schools, and limit plastic waste at vocational education institutions.

Students introduce handicrafts made from recyclable material at the event. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Students introduce handicrafts made from recyclable materials at an environmental protection event in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

The event was joined by nearly 2,000 students of vocational schools in Da Nang and nearby provinces.

The participants presented a variety of recycled products, namely handbags sewn from used tarpaulin, ornaments made from plastic cups and spoons, and tables and chairs made from discarded tires.

Products made from recyclable material are presented at the event in Da Nang City, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Products made from recyclable materials are displayed at an environmental protection event in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Using recycled items is no longer a trend, Kieu Loan, 19, stated, adding that it has become a habit of many young people, showing their love for and awareness of the environment.

“This event puts forward a lot of good ideas for recycling discarded items in our daily life,” said Minh Toai, 24.

It also featured a photo exhibition and a game with about 100 players, centered around environmental protection, climate change, and plastic waste.

A student holds a bag made from used tarpaulin at the event in Da Nang City, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A student holds a bag made from used tarpaulin at an environmental protection event in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A wall clock made from plastic spoons is presented at the event. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A wall clock made from plastic spoons is presented at an environmental protection event in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Le Tan Dung (R), Deputy Minister of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs, attends at event in Da Nang City, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Le Tan Dung (R), Deputy Minister of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs, attends an environmental protection event in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A photo gallery on environmental protection at the event in Da Nang City, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A photo gallery on environmental protection at an environmental protection event in Da Nang City, central Vietnam, July 2, 2022. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/ttnewsstyle/20220703/vocational-school-students-present-recycled-items-at-environmental-protection-event-in-da-nang/67916.html

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Hue Citadel attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy Hue Festival 2022

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Thousands of tourists flocked to the Hue Citadel in Thua Thien-Hue Province on Wednesday night, the first night of free admission to the Hue Festival 2022, to take part in major art activities.

Within the framework of 2022 Hue Festival, the Hue Monuments Conservation Center is offering free entrance to the Imperial City within the Hue Citadel in the city’s namesake till Thursday.

Visitors gather at the Imperial City to enjoy a performance within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien- Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors gather at the Imperial City to enjoy a performance within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien- Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

On Wednesday, one of the key programs of Hue Festival 2022, an art performance was staged in front of the yard of Thai Hoa Palace.

In the space of the historic Nguyen Dynasty Royal Palace, this art program has combined tradition and modernity.

Hue Citadel was adorned with more multicolored lights to welcome travelers at night, creating a sparkling scene.

Actors wearing traditional costumes perform on the stage at the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Actors wearing costumes perform on the stage at the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Tuan Anh, a tourist from the capital city of Hanoi, stated that he was truly astonished by the Imperial City’s breathtaking beauty.

“It’s fantastic to be photographed in the royal palace’s nighttime backdrop with such sparkling illumination,” Anh said.

“After this event, hopefully Hue will keep the citadel open at night so that travelers from all over the country can visit.

Actors wearing traditional costumes perform on the stage at the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Actors wearing traditional costumes perform on the stage at the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors tour an exhibition of the Nguyen Dynasty’s royal seal at the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors tour an exhibition of the Nguyen Dynasty’s royal seal at the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors crowd the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien- Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors crowd the Imperial City within the framework of the 2022 Hue Festival in Thua Thien- Hue Province, Vietnam, June 29, 2022. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/ttnewsstyle/20220630/hue-citadel-attracts-thousands-of-visitors-to-enjoy-hue-festival-2022/67875.html

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