Within weeks of their purchase, the new railcars purchased for Ho Chi Minh City’s Metro Line No. 1 had already been completely blanketed in graffiti, though it’s hardly surprising given just how widespread graffiti culture has become in the city, with tags covering thousands of walls, buildings, bus stops, vehicles, and even the newly opened Thu Thiem 2 Bridge.
The so-called graffiti “artists” responsible for giving Ho Chi Minh City its unwanted fresh coat of paint include both Vietnamese and foreigners who roam the city in the early morning hours looking for a clean wall to tag.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters recently caught up with four local graffiti artists.
In the early morning hours of August 18, the four artists descended on Nguyen Sieu and Ton Duc Thang Streets in District 1 where they were quick to cover a rolling door with a spray painted purple-and-yellow fire hydrant and a power transformer station with a ferocious pit bull.
All four of the graffiti artists arrived on foot, explaining that it was easier to flee the scene if needed.
With their graffiti completed, the group moved on to an underpass under the Nguyen Huu Canh Bridge where two of the young men spent 30 minutes painting a fierce looking pit bull while the other two kept watch.
The next few hours included stops to tag walls near the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, bus stops on Nguyen Huu Canh and Le Thanh Ton Streets, and dustbins.
While tagging a bus stop on Nguyen Huu Canh Street at 4:30 am, two criminal police officers threatened to bring the group to a nearby police station, but eventually just let the group go.
|A graffiti artist paints a bus stop on Nguyen Huu Canh Street. Photo: Hoang Loc / Tuoi Tre|
A few days later, on August 21, the same reporters met another group of graffiti artists who had been tagging houses, power transformers, and walls on Bui Thi Xuan, Cach Mang Thang Tam, Suong Nguyet Anh, Ton That Tung, and Nguyen Trai Streets.
The five members of the group shared that they are all residents of Thu Duc City and typically park their motorbikes near 23/9 park in District 1 before heading out on foot to tag the city.
In bags, the group carries spray paint for tagging walls and paint markers for signing their work.
“Cans of spray paint which cost VND30,000-40,000 [US$1.3-1.7] are ok, but not great. We buy cans of spray paint that cost VND60,000 [$2.5] because the artwork turns out better,” said Duy, a graffiti artist originally from Da Nang City who goes by the nickname “Quata.”
Usually, one member of the group takes photos and records videos for social media while the others paint.
The group continued spray painting the neighborhood until about 2:00 am when a security guard asked them to leave.
Challenging the public
The young graffiti artists Tuoi Tre reporters spoke to are proud of their work – they consider it an important part of the city’s art culture.
Many even upload newspaper articles which criticize the city’s graffiti scene to Instagram alongside captions that challenge the narrative that graffiti is vandalism.
Kant, a young graffiti artist, has gained particular social media notoriety for posting photos of his graffiti on trucks, doors, and buses.
Other well-known graffiti artists in Ho Chi Minh City include FBS, Daga, Kasp, and Draco.
These graffiti artists are so prolific because they can put up a tag in just a few minutes and then move onto the next one.
In just a few hours they can cover dozens of doors, walls, and windows in spray paint.
But Graffiti in Ho Chi Minh City isn’t limited to locals.
GPS CREW, a collective of foreign graffiti artists who go by the nicknames Sixte, Mate, and Answer, have tagged walls along the Nguyen Huu Canh overpass and doors, bridges, and electric poles on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Tran Hung Dao Streets in District 1.
GPS CREW is known tagging hard-to-reach places, such as above the entrance to an underpass on Nguyen Huu Canh Street.
Regardless of whether the graffiti is done by a local or a foreigner, the city’s residents aren’t particularly happy with the new coat of paint that has descended on the city.
“I don’t understand their strange hobby. They seem happy to destroy other people’s property,” a local newspaper seller said.
B., a drink vendor in District 1, said she has seen many of these graffiti artists in action.
“They are always young and work in pairs to draw graffiti from midnight until dawn.
“They never do it in the daytime because they don’t want to be seen,” B. said, adding that she’s been threatened when trying to intervene.
Trung, the owner of a house in District 1, is also unhappy about the graffiti.
“I had to have someone repaint my front because it was vandalized, but it was covered again in graffiti the next day.
|A young man spray paints an underpass on Nguyen Huu Canh Street. Photo: Hoang Loc / Tuoi Tre|
“I don’t bother repainting it anymore because it just makes things easier for the vandals,” he said.
Truong, another homeowner in District 1, said his home has suffered a similar fate to Trung’s.
“This is obviously an act of vandalism and a solution is seriously needed,” he said.
Graffiti isn’t just limited to overpasses and homes.
The offices of several state agencies, including an outpost for the Ministry of Information and Communications and the headquarters of the municipal Department of Transportation have also been plagued with spray-paint vandalism.
According to Bui Trung Kien, deputy general director of Ho Chi Minh City Power Corporation, the power sector is struggling with vandalized electric cabinets.
According to Kien, his agency has developed several solutions, such as covering electric cabinets with nets and using stain-resistant paint, but such solutions are not cost effective.
“We have also weighed the installment of electronic advertising boards on electric cabinets that simply isn’t feasible. We have spent quite a bit of money trying to mitigate graffiti, but that has been in vain,” Kien shared.
|The front of a house on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in District 1 is vandalized. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre|
A risky game
Young 2, a graffiti artist in Ho Chi Minh City, explained that most people who do graffiti practice on paper first in order to create their own style.
“It also requires efforts and money. There is also a lot of danger,” Young 2 said.
“It’s a risky game. If we are caught, we will get taken to the ward headquarters. Many people have been caught red-handed spraying paint.”
Clues about the culprits
Graffiti artists typically sign their work using nicknames so that others can recognize their “art.”
UBIX CREW, for example, seems to have spray painted the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge, rail cars belonging to Metro Line No. 1, areas of Ton Duc Thang and Dien Bien Phu Streets in Ho Chi Minh City, and even Song Quao Lake in the central province of Binh Thuan.
Two other graffiti artists, Abskur1 and URON are also credited with vandalizing metro cars.
HCM City to host ASEAN food festival
HCM CITY HCM City is hosting a food festival featuring traditional cuisine from Southeast Asian countries in the downtown area from November 24-27.
The event is organised by the HCM City Union of Friendship Organisations (HUFO) and its partners, the Việt Nam–ASEAN Friendship Organisation, to mark the 55th anniversary of the South-East Asian block.
Hồ Xuân Lâm, HUFO’s vice chairman, said the event aimed to promote friendship and cooperation among people in Việt Nam and other ASEAN countries.
The festival includes 46 stalls showcasing food, tea, coffee and specialities from restaurants and businesses from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Việt Nam, as well as universities and colleges in the city.
There will be performances of traditional music and dance from ASEAN countries, street art performances and cooking shows.
The festival takes place on Lê Lợi Street on District 1, and is expected to attract a large number of visitors. — VNS
Cỗ lá, the food tray that demonstrates Mường ethnic culture in Hòa Bình
For Mường ethnic people, especially those living in Hòa Bình Province, cỗ lá (literally means a food tray displaying several dishes) is more than just a popular food. The food tray represents Mường culture and is an integral part of important occasions, weddings, funerals, New Year or new house celebrations.
A traditional food that has been kept and inherited from generation to generation of Mường people, cỗ lá is unique – from the selection of ingredients to the way of cooking and the food presentation – through which to present the conception of human life of Mường people.
Bùi Xuân Phú and wife Nguyễn Thị Vi run Mường Thàng Quán – a restaurant specialising in Mường dishes in Hòa Bình City for 20 years. To create the distinctive yet natural light sweetness of the dishes, all dishes presented on cỗ lá should be prepared with wild leaves and vegetables collected in forests or gardens.
“Depending on the scale of the event, a cỗ lá should consist of at least seven different dishes, including the compulsory ones of cỗ ngọn (slices of boiled pig liver, heart, and maw), boiled pork, chả lá bưởi (grilled pork in pomelo leaves), grilled pork in banana leaves, gà đồ măng chua (steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots), rau đồ (steamed wild vegetable), and canh loóng chuối (soup cooked with wild banana stem),” Vi said.
The Mường woman also said that it takes at least one and a half hours to prepare a cỗ lá because “you have to finish cooking all the dishes before displaying them all on the tray.”
To grill the pork, Vi said that it’s necessary to marinate with lá mắc mật (clausen indica leaves) and hạt dổi (wild pepper) to get the aromatic flavour for the meat.
The steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots should be chopped into bite-sized pieces before mixing with sour bamboo shoots and a little bit of salt, then wrapped in banana leave and steamed for about half an hour.
“The tip to making this dish good is the ingredients. Hen is preferred as its texture is more tender. To make the sour bamboo shoot, we use only the bamboo shoot of giang (a kind of green-trunk bamboo) as it retains the natural sweetness after being fermented,” Vi revealed her cooking tricks.
The savoury and palatable canh loóng chuối is cooked with wild banana stem, pig bone, and lá lốt – a kind of aromatic leaves.
Her husband Phú said there are some rules for the presentation of cỗ lá.
“The presentation of a cỗ lá for a wedding or festive event must be different from the one for a funeral,” he said. “A tray must be spread with a banana leaf cut in half. However, for the wedding, the tip of the leaf has to point out; on the contrary, for a funeral, the tip has to point in.”
In the old days, Mường people used only wild banana leaves to spread on the tray. But nowadays, when finding wild bananas is inconvenient, they can replace by other kinds of banana leaves, except the aromatic banana “because it has lots of acrid resin that can harm the taste and flavour of the food displayed on it,” Phú said.
He also said that to prepare cỗ lá for important occasions such as weddings or new year celebrations, each family has raised pigs and chicken for a year before butchering the best ones to offer to the ancestors.
In the past, wealthy families used an engraved copper tray to display cỗ lá while ordinary people used the bamboo tray.
According to the 65-year-old restauranteur, seating arrangement rules had to be followed in the old days.
“In the Mường stilt house, the side with windows has been specified as the ‘upper place’, which is for elders only, and the younger ones sit next, in order from old to young,” Phú said.
Due to modernisation, traditional custom has been fading. Many can not speak the Mường ethnic language, and they don’t use the correct Vietnamese word when they mention cỗ lá.
“Many of our guests, especially the young ones, when they place an order for cỗ lá, instead of asking for a mâm cỗ lá (a tray of cỗ lá), they used mẹt cỗ lá (flat winnowing basket of cỗ lá). In our culture, the flat winnowing basket is used to offer food for the Hungry Ghost,” Phú said.
Nguyễn Xuân Tùng, a tourist from Hà Nội, said that although he had many chances to taste cỗ lá when he travelled to many places in the northwestern region, the one he sampled at Mường Thàng Quán is the best.
“It’s not only about the food, but about the rich ethnic culture presented through every dish, especially the traditional customs and stories told by the restaurant owners, who are authentic Mường people,” Tùng said. — VNS
Việt Nam takes move to curb obesity
HÀ NỘI – Việt Nam’s Ministry of Health has issued its first specialised guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of obesity in response to the increasing obesity rate in the last decade.
According to the National Nutrition Census 2019-2020 of the National Institute of Nutrition, the rate of overweight and obese children increased 2.2 times, from 8.5 per cent in 2010 to 19.0 per cent in 2020.
According to the Ministry of Health, in 2020, the rate of overweight and obesity in urban areas reached 26.8 per cent, in rural areas 18.3 per cent and mountainous areas 6.9 per cent.
The National Institute of Nutrition also announced the obesity rate among children in inner districts in HCM City surpassed 50 per cent. In comparison, the rate in Hà Nội surpassed 41 per cent.
Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of obesity promulgated under Decision No. 2892/QD-BYT dated October 22, 2022, are applied at medical examination and treatment facilities across the country.
Prof. Dr Trần Hữu Dàng, President of the Việt Nam Association of Endocrinology – Diabetes, said that the guidance marked a milestone that could help millions of Vietnamese people prevent obesity and its complications such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, or sleep apnea.
Dàng said that obesity adversely affects all health problems, reduces life expectancy, causes many chronic diseases and reduces the quality of life.
“Measures to prevent and treat overweight and obesity and maintain long-term weight control can improve health status and reduce complications for patients,” he said.
“However, obesity has not been paid enough attention. Obese people usually struggle to lose weight, and many of them believe in and use remedies that are advertised online without health workers’ consultation,” he said.
“According to the World Health Organisation and the American Medical Association, obesity is a chronic disease requiring long-term management and treatment because obesity causes a lot of dangerous complications, affecting people’s health,” Dàng said.
According to Doctor Nghiêm Nguyệt Thu, Head of the Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institute of Nutrition, the way in which obese people try to lose weight is the issue.
Thu said that many people aim to lose four or five kg a month, which is not sustainable.
“The goal of losing weight is not to pressure obese people to fast or exercise until fainting. However, a weight loss goal set between 5-15 per cent over six months is realistic and has proven health benefits,” Thu said.
“Lifestyle interventions are the foundation for maintaining safe and sustainable weight loss, including nutritional interventions, physical exercise, behaviour change, and psychological support,” she said.
Drug treatment is only applied after three-month lifestyle interventions do not help lose five per cent of weight or for patients with a BMI of more than 25 kg/m2.
The surgical weight loss method is only suggested for cases with a BMI of 35 kg/m2 or higher, or those with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 with other obesity-related comorbidities.
“The challenge for nutritional treatment is to make patients change their behaviour. No amount of exercise is effective if people keep eating too much,” said Thu.
Experts recommend eating more boiled green vegetables and fewer sweet fruits. In addition, people should exercise for 30-60 minutes a day.
Dr Phan Bích Nga from the National Institute of Nutrition said a high-sugar diet with too much sugar and unhealthy fats often found in cakes, soft drinks, sauces, junk food, and fast food, plus not getting enough rest and inactivity are the leading causes of excess energy and metabolic disorders.
However, she noted that these concerns should not matter until children are at least three years old, as their bodies naturally carry more fat. VNS
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