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Hội An sampan riders: the hardships and the smiles




Sampan riding on the Hoài River is one of the most popular tourist activities in Hội An City. Sampan riders in the ancient city are eager to get back to work after more than two years of suspension due to COVID-19. — Photo Bảo Hoa

QUẢNG NAM — Entering a new normal phase after more than two years of being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, sampan riders in Hội An City are eager to get back to work, expecting prosperous, stable tourism development for the town.

The main riverside walk in Hội An in the central province of Quảng Nam – one of the most beautiful cities in Việt Nam – is usually packed with sampans, which tourists can hire for about VNĐ50,000 per hour for a small one and VNĐ100,000 for a bigger one.

Sampans are long and low boats with a wooden hull that two to four people can sit on comfortably. They are used as taxis, fishing boats and for tourism.

Nguyễn Thị Nhánh, a sampan rider, said that over months, Hội An had become more and more crowded with visitors again.

From late afternoon, the Bạch Đằng Wharf area in Bạch Đằng Street is already quite busy, she said.

The waves undulate the small boats up and down, causing the rider to hunch her back and stretch her hands to control the oars in the reverse wind.

Having just arrived at the wharf, reaching out to wipe the sweat stains on her face, Nhánh said she had many clients that day and earned a tidy sum.

Remembering last year when tourism froze due to the pandemic, she said that she hardly had any clients, so her income from the sampan was not enough to cover her meals for a day.

The 69-year-old Nhánh from Kim Bồng Village said that she worked on a sampan for more than 20 years.

When she was a child, she often followed the villagers to row a boat back and forth between Cẩm Kim and Old Quarter wharves, so she is familiar with the water there.

Another sampan rider Trần Thị Nhường, 45, said that she had done that job for nearly 20 years and just earned enough to make ends meet for her family.

“Riding the sampan on the river is not as hard as offshore fishing except on windy days,” she said.

“Sometimes, when I encounter a reverse current, after riding guest around the river, I breathe fast. Of course, it’s hard. But it’s interesting as I meet many people, hearing them talk about things here and there.”

Tăng Thị Ni, 70, said that this job required hard work. Sampan riders have to sit outside to welcome guests in the rain or intense heat.

“Although the income is not much and it is a hard job, for many years, thanks to the sampan rides, many families earn a living and have money to send their children to school,” Ni said.

“Never mind! Let it be! Although rowing the boat is tiring, I feel very uncomfortable without it. When local tourism was closed for the last two years, dozens of boaters like me were sad because we couldn’t earn money, and we missed the boat and the oars!” 

Sampans are commonly used as taxis, fishing boats and tour boats in the ancient town of Hội An, the central province of Quảng Nam. — Photo

“Say cheese”

The biggest obstacle between foreign tourists and boaters is the language barrier.

As Bạch Đằng wharf is an eco-tourism area that regularly receives foreign tourists, most boaters take advantage of learning to speak a little of a foreign language.

Nhường laughed: “Here, we all speak Vinglish. If tourists don’t understand what we speak, we use body language instead. A nod means, okay.”

“As for the familiar greetings to know where visitors want to go and negotiate prices, we already know them. Not only young people but even old boatmen can speak to foreigners ​​very well.”

Besides the young people, many ageing men and women over 70-years-old still row boats to bring tourists a leisurely experience on the Hoài River.

In his seventies, a male sampan rider named Tám said that he rowed from one bank of the Hoài River to the other every day to pick up guests.

Sometimes, when his eyes are too blurry to see clearly in the evening, or his hands shake as he is so tired, his wife rows instead.

Riding a boat is hard, but when it comes to discussing his job, Tám’s eyes light up, and he talks about it proudly.

He said that he knows a little English that he learned from cyclo drivers so that he can invite guests from Europe or the US onto his boat. However, when he meets Asian tourists, he cannot speak to them, though they usually muddle through somehow.

On a vast stretch of river, beside the prosperous streets, there are still people who quietly make a living by doing this most simple but tiring jobs every day. On these boats, travellers from the world are excited to see Hội An ancient town.

Tourists often photograph the many sampan riders, and if you look at photos, you can see that the boat men and women are always smiling despite the difficulties of their daily lives. —



Police probe suspected child abuse case in Vietnam’s Ha Tinh Province



Police in Ha Tinh Province, north-central Vietnam are investigating a case of suspected child abuse after a video clip spread on social media showed a half-naked man beating a teen girl with nothing on.

In the four-minute clip, the unclothed girl was hung against the ceiling of a house with a string that tied her hands while the man was beating her with a rod.

The video has triggered deep indignation among the online community after it was posted on Friday morning.

The incident took place at a house in Cuong Gian Commune, located in the province’s Nghi Xuan District, as far as Tien Phong (Youth) newspaper had learned.

Hoang Van Ha, chairman of the commune’s administration, confirmed to Tien Phong that the incident occurred in the locality, adding local police have launched an investigation into it.

The girl in the clip is N., 11, and the man beating her is her father, N.V.T., 36, Ha said.

N. is the second child in her family of three siblings and N.’s mother is now a guest worker in Taiwan, according to local authorities.

“The incident happened a few days ago. After the video clip appeared, local authorities and police came to T.’s house for verification but he had left,” Ha said.

T. works as a seaman and often drinks alcohol and beats his children, Ha added.

Local police are continuing to investigate this suspected child abuse case.

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Torrential rain sinks streets, houses in northern Vietnamese province



Multiple streets and houses in Lao Cai Province, northern Vietnam were severely inundated following a heavy downpour on Thursday evening.

The provincial steering committee for natural disaster prevention and rescue told Tien Phong (Youth) newspaper on Friday that local authorities were dealing with the aftermath of the rain and calculating the total damage it had done.

The downpour that lasted for over an hour started battering Lao Cai City, which is the provincial capital, and several districts in Lao Cai Province at around 8:00 pm on Thursday.

A tree is uprooted during the downpour in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam, August 4, 2022. Photo: L.Cai / Tien Phong

A tree is uprooted during the downpour in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam, August 4, 2022. Photo: L.Cai / Tien Phong

Many streets including Tran Phu, Tran Hung Dao, Le Thanh, Nhac Son, An Duong Vuong, and Pho Moi were submerged by rainwater, while numerous cars and motorbikes broke down as well.

Uprooted trees were recorded on Ham Nghi Street and at Goc Mit Market and Thang Binh Park.

Flooding in local neighborhoods occurred quickly, leaving residents little to no time to react.

A resident pushes his motorbike on a flooded street in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam, August 4, 2022. Photo: L.Cai / Tien Phong

A resident pushes his motorbike on a flooded street in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam, August 4, 2022. Photo: L.Cai / Tien Phong

Many people reported having their homes, electrical appliances, and motorbikes damaged by the inundation.

Bac Cuong Ward in Lao Cai City suffered the heaviest damage with three neighborhoods sunk by the downpour.

The heavy rain also caused landslides in several areas across the province.

The National Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting previously reported that torrential rains would lash northern Vietnam from Thursday until the end of this week.

Houses are submerged by a heavy downpour in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam, August 4, 2022. Photo: L.Cai / Tien Phong

Houses are submerged by a heavy downpour in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam, August 4, 2022. Photo: L.Cai / Tien Phong

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Vietnamese province revamps public bus service after limbless man ignored by drivers



The Department of Transport of the north-central Vietnamese province of Nghe An has ordered a revamp of local public bus routes after a limbless man spent two hours repeatedly failing to flag down a bus, apparently because drivers were simply ignoring him.

A viral video posted online on Thursday showed Huynh Thanh Duc, 51, a resident of Ha Tinh Province, telling a local in Hoa Thanh Commune, Yen Thanh District, Nghe An Province that he stood at a bus stop waiting for a bus from 7:00 am to 9:00 am on Wednesday.

Duc, who is quadruple amputee, was dropped off at the bus stop by his child at around 7:00 am that day to catch bus No. 5 from Yen Thanh to Vinh City, the capital of Nghe An.

Three No. 5 buses passed while Duc and his child waited, but none stopped.

Duc’s child wound up having to leave to attend to an urgent matter, and shortly after a fourth No. 5 bus drove by without stopping for Duc.

A local named D., who filmed the viral video, helped Duc wave a bus down and help him aboard.

The video of the incident draw huge public attention and stirred mixed opinions, mostly criticism.

A video of Huynh Thanh Duc attempting to catch bus No. 5 in Hoa Thanh Commune, Yen Thanh District, Nghe An Province, Vietnam, August 3, 2022. Video: Tien Phong

In their initial response to the incident, the operator of the No. 5 bus route explained that Duc stood a bit too far from the bus stop to be noticed and showed no signs of needing a ride.

However, according to D., it is common for passengers at the stop to wait in the shade of the nearby tree, rather than right at the stop. 

They only run to the bus stop once the bus arrives. 

Unfortunately, Duc was not able to leave the shade for the bus stop due to his disability.

On Thursday afternoon, Nguyen Van Hai, deputy director of the Nghe An Department of Transport, requested that his subordinates revamp service on all public bus routes in the province following the incident.

Nghe An currently has more than 300 buses which run a combined 1,300 trips per day at a frequency of about 15-35 minutes per departure.

Vietnamese law stipulates that priority has to be given to public transport passengers with disabilities, including prioritized seating, free or discounted fares, and assistance with boarding and deboarding.

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