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Hanoi’s Covid-19 fight leaves street food vendors in the lurch

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The latest Covid-19 outbreak has left Hanoi’s street food workers high and dry as the city has allowed restaurants and coffee shops to open again, but not street food stalls.

Nguyen Thi Nhung, 39, decided to stay back in Hanoi instead of returning to her hometown for the Lunar New Year holidays (Tet) because she hoped to open her tea stall soon after the national break.

But two weeks after the holiday ended, her hopes have been dashed as the tea stall remains banned from opening.

Beginning Tuesday, indoor coffee shops in the capital city have been allowed to welcome their patrons, but outdoor ones like Nhung’s tea stall, closed since February 16, will remain closed until further notice.

“It is like an everlasting earthquake shaking my livelihood, but I have no choice but to cling to whatever I have and wait,” Nhung said.

Suffering Nhung’s fate are thousands of street food vendors in the capital city, mostly low-income residents. The Covid-19 pandemic has robbed them of their livelihood and left them in dire straits.

A street food vendor in Hanoi, October 2017. Photo by VnExprress/Giang Huy.

A street food vendor in Hanoi, October 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

Le Thi Chinh, 47, who runs a xoi (sticky rice) stall near the Gia Lam Bus Terminal, has earned next to nothing since early February. The diabetes afflicted woman ticked off what she lacked.

“Money to rent the house, to pay for my children’s education, to buy my medicines… I made nothing last month.”

Her four-member family has to depend entirely on her husband, who earns around VND8 million ($349.15) per month working for a paper-making factory in Hanoi’s Long Bien District.

In their cramped accommodation, Chinh’s pots, stove, dishes and other materials for her xoi stall lie idle in a corner. She has no idea when she will be able to light up her stove again.

“I have cut our spending on food and milk for our sons. I cannot send them to my hometown because traveling back and forth costs a significant amount of money,” Chinh said, adding she used to earn up to VND600,000 ($26.19) per day.

All street vendors selling tea, fruits and noodles around the bus station have disappeared since the latest Covid-19 outbreak.

Since the social distancing campaign last April, street food vendors have suffered badly. In addition to the closures mandated by authorities, pandemic fears have also kept patrons away when they open.

According to the General Statistics Office (GSO), the unprecedented impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have forced 32.1 million Vietnamese workers aged 15 or above to either lose their jobs or have their working hours reduced in 2020.

Informal sector dependants like Nhung and Chinh, having no social support and living far from their hometowns, are likely among the hardest hit, says sociologist Trinh Hoa Binh.

“Who knows what will happen if there is another year of Covid-19?,” Chinh said sadly.

Something’s better than nothing

Some street food vendors are trying to cope with the situation by finding some job, despite much lower earnings.

In Cau Giay District’s Nghia Tan Market, where many street food vendors ran their businesses before the city banned them, some have begun working as delivery men, women, or temporary motorbike taxi drivers.

“Prices keep going up after Tet, the only thing stands at zero is my income,” said Le Van Tinh, employee of a pho stall outside the market.

Since the holiday ended, he has worked as a delivery man for “anyone who wants to send their goods to their patrons.” If he’s lucky, he can earn around VND200,000 a day. His wife, meanwhile, is staying back in their hometown in Bac Giang Province, working as a trash collector.

A small number of people trying to stick to their livelihoods are delivering food to their customers.

“They do not allow me to sell my fish noodles on the sidewalk, so I cook at home and my husband delivers them,” said Le Thanh Hoa, owner of a noodles stall near the My Dinh Bus Terminal.

Hoa said Covid-19 fears keep many of her patrons away, so she has only around 40 orders per day, “but it is okay as long as I can make some money during this storm.”

Many other street food vendors have opted to stay back in their hometowns until they can reopen.

“So we can save some money because things are more expensive in Hanoi,” said Tinh, explaining why his wife has stayed back in Bac Giang Province since Tet.

Foreign tourists enjoy beer and food at the intersection of Hanois Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets before the pandemic. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Foreign tourists enjoy beer and food at the intersection of Hanoi’s Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets before the pandemic. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

No support

Last year, the government rolled out a VND62 trillion ($2.6 billion) support package to help around 20 million poverty-stricken people and small businesses affected by the pandemic.

But most street food vendors are unable to get any support because of complex procedures.

When Nhung applied for the governmental support, she was told by local authorities she was disqualified because she had violated regulations that prohibit peddlers from selling goods on the streets, and because she had no business license.

Nguyen Hong Dan, deputy director of the Hanoi Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, once said the slow progress in handing out the aid is mainly due to the difficulty in verifying workers who do not have formal contracts.

Several local officials said it was a “headache” to determine the incomes and nature of applicants’ work.

“These informal workers and officials are both in a difficult situation,” sociologist Binh commented.

This year, Nhung, hoping life will return to normal soon as people have learned from several outbreaks, has given up on the idea of looking for help. She knows the only one she can rely on is herself.

When she heard that the city has allowed coffee shops to open on March 2, she was happy, thinking street food stalls were in the same category.

“But I was wrong. Now I have to keep waiting until my tea stall can have patrons again, or until I am drained by this pandemic and have to find a different path.”

Source: https://e.vnexpress.net/news/life/trend/hanoi-s-covid-19-fight-leaves-street-food-vendors-in-the-lurch-4242668.html

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Hanoi gets to meet Thich Nhat Hanh’s calligraphy

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Several works of calligraphy by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh are now on display at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts on Hanoi’s Yet Kieu Street.

The “Huong Thom Que Me” (The Fragrance of Motherland) exhibition, held April 14- 26, displays 100 works of calligraphy in various languages including Vietnamese, English, French and Chinese.

The works reflect the Zen master’s love for Mother Earth, who nurtures and protects all sentient beings.

The exhibition takes its name from the title of a new book that features Thich Nhat Hanh calligraphy.

According to Eve Yuen, a Hongkong-based art critic, Hanh’s works are choreographic calligraphy that exude exquisite qualities, incorporating straight and solid lines as well as flowing curves in a balanced composition.

The works were earlier displayed in France, Germany, Canada, the U.S., Thailand, Taiwan, Hongkong, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Calligraphy works by Thich Nhat Hanh. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tuyen.

Calligraphy works by Thich Nhat Hanh. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tuyen.

The Zen master said he has done more than 10,000 calligraphic works since 1994. They have helped him demonstrate the art of mindful living to his students. They have become a source of donations supporting humanitarian projects in many developing countries.

“Writing calligraphy is a practice of meditation,” the Master has said.

“The way I do calligraphy, I do it in a certain way that can generate the energy of mindfulness, concentration, insight, and compassion during the time of practice.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, considered the second most influential Buddhist leader in the world after the Dalai Lama, studied and practiced Zen Buddhism from 1942.

Born in 1926, he became a monk at the age of 23 after studying Buddhism for seven years.

In the 1960s he spearheaded a movement by Buddhists in southern Vietnam that called for a negotiated end to the Vietnam War.

He left the country in 1966 and lived in Plum Village in southern France for decades, traveling regularly throughout North America and Europe to give lectures on mindfulness and peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh is also a celebrated poet and peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967, and is the author of more than 100 books, including several bestsellers like the “The Miracle of Mindfulness.”

Source: https://e.vnexpress.net/news/life/culture/hanoi-gets-to-meet-thich-nhat-hanh-s-calligraphy-4262919.html

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Kilometer-long queue for rap TV show casting call

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Thousands of mostly young people queued up for hours in Saigon to audition for Rap Viet, a reality show that seeks to unearth talented rappers.

Season 2 of Rap Viet kicked off in Ho Chi Minh City on April 13, attracting thousands of wannabe rappers.

Season 2 of Rap Viet kicked off in Ho Chi Minh City on April 13, attracting thousands of wannabe rappers.

Youngsters lined up on bustling Do Quang Dau Street in Saigon’s scorching sun.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday, hundreds of people were queuing for their registration numbers. District 1’s Do Quang Dau Street was filled with people waiting up to two hours to show off their talents in front of judges. Some sat in nearby coffee shops or on street corners practicing their rap skills to kill time.
“I’m worried after seeing the huge number of contestants, but told myself to finish my performance, focus on meaningful songs,” said Dinh Thi Thanh Truc, 20.

Many of them waited for hours.

Contestants, over 20 years old, hail from HCMC and nearby provinces like Dong Nai, Binh Duong, as well as central localities like Da Nang and Hue. Many try impressing others with their hip-hop garb and colorful hair. According to the rules, each must perform two original songs.
Nguyen Dang Hieu, 29, said he was anxious about attending a rap competition for the first time. The white collar worker from Da Nang discovered his love for rap in 2017, and chose to sing about the loneliness of women and yes persons in modern society.

In the first season 36 contestants had been chosen from thousands, and the show went on to become a humongous hit on national television. On November 14, 2020, its finale attracted more than 1.2 million viewers, a record number for an entertainment show. Rap Viet’s Youtube channel has more than two million subscribers, and many videos get millions of views.

Many new underground artists like Soc Nau and Pjpo have also joined the open call.
In the first season 36 contestants had been chosen from thousands, and the show went on to become a humongous hit on national television. On November 14, 2020, its finale attracted more than 1.2 million viewers, a record number for an entertainment show. Rap Viet’s Youtube channel has more than two million subscribers, and many videos get millions of views.

Many underground rappers also joined the open call, hoping to earn more fame after the popular rap show.Rap, slow to become popular in Vietnam due to its often dark and violent content, has won over young music lovers and found its ways into the mainstream.In the last few years dozens of rap artists, mostly underground, have appeared and achieved success with their music videos getting millions of views and shows attracting tens of thousands of fans.King Of Rap, another reality show on national television, also got millions of viewers when it debuted in 2020.

According to organizers, 2,000 people have attended the open call in the last two days. They will look for contestants in Hanoi on April 20-21, 2021. Rap, slow to become popular in Vietnam due to its often dark and violent content, has won over young music lovers and found its ways into the mainstream. In the last few years dozens of rap artists, mostly underground, have appeared and achieved success with their music videos getting millions of views and shows attracting tens of thousands of fans.
King Of Rap, another reality show on national television, also got millions of viewers when it debuted in 2020.

Photo courtesy of Rap Viet.

Source: https://e.vnexpress.net/news/life/culture/kilometer-long-queue-for-rap-tv-show-casting-call-4262792.html

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A new tourism trend for the pandemic and beyond

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By Lê Hương

After parking his car on the side of the road, 51-year-old Lưu Văn Thanh from Hà Nội, knows it’s time for a photoshoot.

His wife and friends are ready, posing on the mountain side with spectacular views of rice field terraces in the background.

Perfect pictures for their social media pages and to share with friends, capturing the breath-taking moments at the push of a button.

Thanh isn’t the only one who has had the same idea. Camera phones are clicking away all around but there isn’t a tour bus in sight.

He is among of group of 150 people taking part in the first ‘self-driving’ holiday hosted by Hà Nội Travel Agents’ Association and VGreen Sustainable Tourism Club along with the National Museum of Vietnamese History.

“I have been travelling a lot both inside and outside the country,” Thanh says. “But this is the first time I have experienced self-driving tourism.

“It’s really interesting. I received a warm welcome from local ethnic minority people.”

The tour called “Northwestern Region – Season of Orchid Flowers” sees a convoy of cars leave the capital city before stopping at various locations in the northwest of Việt Nam.

These include: Ngọc Chiến (Sơn La Province), Mù Cang Chải (Yên Bái Province), Tam Đường (Lai Châu Province), Lai Châu Town,  Điện Biên City, Quỳnh Nhai (Sơn La Province) and Hòa Bình Province.

The member cars, which all have logo of the club on the doors, follow one another on the route. They are all equipped with walkie-talkie radios and take rests, eat meals and spend the night at the same location.

“The tour followed the route that soldiers in Điện Biên Strategy marched to fight against the French in 1954, which moved me as it reminded me of my time training hard in the army,” Thanh says.

 

Cars parked on the self-driving tour themed “Northwestern Region – Season of Orchid Flowers” in the northern province of Lại Châu. Photos Thúy Hà

Thanh says he will definitely join other self-driving tours in the future to broaden his travelling experiences.

He adds: “The trip is a little scary because many people are not used to driving on mountain roads but is worth it because of all the interesting things we see that you might not on normal tours.”

Phùng Quang Thắng, chairman of VGreen Sustainable Tourism Club says the highlight of the new tour product is experiencing culture on offer from the comfort of your own vehicles.

Tourists and cars meet at the museum in downtown Hà Nội – where information about the trip is explained including the landscapes of the roads, the historic Điện Biên Phủ Campaign and ethnic groups they will meet along the way.

“The self-driving tour was built on the foundation of cultural stories of more than 20 ethnic groups in the northwestern region,” Thắng says.

“Tourists have the chance to meet with Thai people in Ngọc Chiến Commune (Sơn La Province), Dao people in Sì Thâu Chải Village, Mông people in Lao Chải 1 Village (Tam Đường District, Lai Châu Province) or Lự people in Thẳm Village (Tam Đường District, Lai Châu Province).”

Vũ Thu Hường, who is on the trip with her husband, says: “We have lived with the ethnic minority people at their homes, we worked with them on the field, weaved cloth with them, enjoyed their traditional food and played their folk games.”

Tourists can stop by various locations on the way.

Tourist Dương Văn Tình cannot hide his excitement after meeting the ethnic community in Trại Village (Hòa Bình Province) and learning about their early lives.

“I’m also impressed with actions to preserve relic sites, limit plastic rubbish, protect nature and improve community tourism models at the destinations during the trip,” Tình says.

“The trip is so relaxing, full of fun but there is also responsibility to respect local communities and protect the environment.”

Nguyễn Thiền Hậu, from the southern province of An Giang says he was also impressed with local customs and the landscape of the northwestern region.

“I will tell my friends at home to join such a tour,” he says.

New trend

After the success of the first self-driving tour, the next tour of its kind in mid-April, is already fully booked.

Vũ Giang Biên, deputy chairperson of VGreen Club says: “On the next self-driving tour, we will gather 10 to 15 cars to ensure the best conditions for tourists.”

She says nearly 100 tourists have signed up for the tour.

VGreen has prepared other trips for many smaller cars, connecting one another by walkie talkie. The club has also co-ordinated with localities to prepare health care support, first-aid services and rescue support when needed.

“All preparations for preventing the virus like health declarations, face masks and hand-washing gels have been prepared,” she says. “So whatever the circumstances, the tour can go ahead and ensure safety for tourists.”

Biên says Việt Nam has great potential to develop these types of holidays.

“From the north to the south, anywhere, interesting self-driving tours can be designed,” she says.

Members of the tour take a photo at Sì Thâu Chải Community Tourism Village in Lai Châu Province. 

VGreen club has built up various tours for self-driving holidays that can take place over two, five and 10 days.

In the upcoming months, the club will consider routes along the central coastal areas and the south.

“We hope the self-driving tours will be not only a product in the pandemic but also a trend in the future with interesting experiences on routes with impressive landscapes and distinctive cultures,” Biên says.

“With such a good quality and sustainable product, VGreen Club is targeting not only domestic tourists but also foreign visitors,” she says.

Vũ Thế Bình, chairman of Việt Nam Tourism Association says: “In the past few years, the awareness of tourists has been enhanced.

“They travel, explore the foundations of culture, history, architecture and cuisine. So they need guidance and information.

When the pandemic is controlled tourists can join self-driving tours to neighbouring countries.

“What challenges this type of tourism is transportation of people and the driving experience of the tourists,” Thắng says.

Phạm Thị Hồng Thu, director of Đức Minh Trade and Tourism Company says such tours need careful research of the destinations and resting places by the host travel agents.

“Travel agents should also let an experienced driver lead the group and also have drivers for tourists when they feel tired,” she says.

Great potential

A recent survey by booking.com reflects new choices of Vietnamese people during the pandemic.

It found 75 per cent of tourists saying safety while travelling is their top priority while 42 per cent choosing less crowded destinations.

Half said they would not choose public means of transport and would prefer to drive by themselves.

Trương Đức Hải, Chairman of the Board of Hòn Ngọc Viễn Đông Company, which specialises in organising self-driving tours says the company sells more now than before the pandemic.

“Our customers tend to choose travelling with their family or friends to form small groups and travel by their own car with our guide or they may hire our small buses including guides,” he says.

Discovering the culture of local ethnic groups is a highlight at the tour.

Trần Văn Ngọc, director of Phong Hà Service Ltd Company says these trips help tourists reach more remote areas and contribute more to the local community than tours travelling in big buses.

“This helps tourists access new places known by very few people, where they can support charity programme for locals,” he says.

Last year, self-driving tour Returning to Central Region brought hundreds of tourists to help in areas that had been seriously damaged by strong storms.

Self-driving tour titled “West of Nghệ Region” combined trekking on Pu Xai Lai Leng Peak, a visit to the local border station and handed gifts to local people in need.

The tours often include professional photographers, who are ready to take photos for tourists during the trip.

And no matter what time of year, there is always a place worth visiting.

“Each season has its own attraction for people to travel and explore,” says Hải.

“The departing and returning routes are designed differently so that tourists can experience different destinations and resting places, which make self-driving tours more interesting than normal tours.”

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/life-style/925434/a-new-tourism-trend-for-the-pandemic-and-beyond.html

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