Tran Thi Tuyen’s photo is shown in a fake funeral she organized for herself in Cu Lao Dung Town, Dong Thap Province, Vietnam, March 29, 2021
A woman in Vietnam has been found falsifying her own funeral to escape debt collectors who were going after her.
The woman in question, who was identified to be Tran Thi Tuyen, 60, from Cu Lao Dung Town in southern Dong Thap Province, was detained on Wednesday for an investigation into the funeral she staged, said Vo Thanh Quang, chairman of the local People’s Committee.
Tuyen has been absent from Cu Lao Dung Town for a while due to alleged pressure from debt collectors, according to Quang.
On Monday, Tuyen bought a casket and sent it home to arrange a fake funeral for herself.
During the funeral, it was told by Tuyen’s relatives that she had died from illness in Cambodia after migrating there to seek business opportunities.
However, the statement enkindled suspicion from local authorities, as functional forces should have notified them of COVID-19 cautions and monitoring had a body been officially repatriated from Cambodia during this time.
Local officials then opened up the casket for inspection, only to find three bags of sand inside.
After scanning through surveillance video footage, the Cu Lao Dung administration caught Tuyen’s son driving his mom to buy a casket in Dong Thap on Monday.
Tuyen’s action is a case of fraud and will be subject to further investigation by Cu Lao Dung police.
Foodies in Vietnam have recently been sharply divided over their opinions on the country’s most famous dish: pho.
It is obvious that pho is the signature dish of Vietnam, with its name being defined in many English dictionaries such as Cambridge, Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and Collins Cobuild.
“Pho is a soup made of beef or chicken broth and rice noodles,” Merriam-Webster defines.
It is true that there are two main types of pho in Vietnam, including pho bo with broth cooked from beef bone and topped with beef, and pho ga consisting of chicken broth and topped with chicken meat.
However, pho is made and served differently in different regions in Vietnam, from north to south.
And that is where the stir is caused.
Last week, a member of a food reviewing Facebook group shared his thought after tasting the dish at a restaurant in District 5, Ho Chi Minh City.
In his post, the author expressed his disappointment at the pho at the place, criticizing the broth flavor as well as the quality of the meat served.
He also claimed VND70,000 (US$3) for the pho bowl he ate was a high price.
In addition, he made some comparison of the way people in the northern and southern regions enjoy the noodle dish.
The post quickly became a debate on the 6,200-member group, as it has commanded the attention of 2,400 people who liked or reacted with the ‘haha’ or ‘angry’ buttons.
More than 1,400 comments were also made, with many of them criticizing the post’s author for his negative tone when comparing pho in the two regions.
“Taste is different from place to place,” one wrote.
Meanwhile, a number of the post’s viewers agreed with the author, explaining that pho is a dish originating in the northern region so it should taste the northern way.
The conversation has gone beyond the group, with 1,300 people sharing it to continue discussing the issue.
One dish, two styles
For those who do not know much about pho, the way itis cooked and served in the north and the south does have some differences.
One of the most obvious disparities is the northern pho normally uses flat noodles while the southern version has its noodles a little thicker.
Besides, pho is served with mung bean sprouts, herbs, and chili and hoisin sauces in the south, whereas that in the north comes with bagel twists, chili sauce, pickled garlic, and spring onion.
Another big discrepancy comes from the flavor, as the northern pho’s broth is said to be gentle and light while the southern dishis believed to be bold and fattier.
The topping choices are also thought to be more various in the south with different options of beef meat, beef tendon, and beef meatballs.
Actually, the debate over the two styles of pho is no longer new in Vietnam, to both locals and foreigners.
In October 2017, American food vlogger Sonny Side featured pho in a video on his Best Ever Food Review Show YouTube channel with more than 6.6 million subscribers.
In the second part of the episode titled ‘$2 PHO vs $100 PHO – Northern VS Southern Pho!,’ which has attracted more than 7.7 million views so far, the Ho Chi Minh City-based vlogger joined his friend Andrew for a dining experience at a pho stall in District 1 that is over 50 years old.
“As much as I like southern pho, it’s a little sweet for me,” Side commented.
“If I’m getting very picky, I would say the northern [pho] is better,” he added, only to receive opposition from his friend Andrew.
“I would completely disagree,” the friend replied.
The two’s conversation attracted a pho fan who left a comment saying she loved both the northern and southern pho.
“There is no objectively better pho as northern and southern pho tap into your food senses differently: one focuses on the exquisite refinement of the broth, pho noodles, and meat, while the other focuses on the sensory harmony created from diverse ingredients and a ‘kick’ from the stronger broth,” said Phong Lan Phan Ngoc, who was born and lived in Hanoi for 15 years before moving to Ho Chi Minh City.
Indeed, it seems to be hard for people to be ‘objective’ when it comes to food experiences, or do they ever need to be objective?
The debate over pho in the north and south has been joined by some people from the central region of Vietnam, claiming their pho is also a great version to try.
So what do you think about Vietnamese pho? Which style is the best for you, north or south?
Nearly all the xe dap tho (bicycle taxi and delivery) drivers in Hue City, which is Vietnam’s imperial capital tucked away in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, have switched to other jobs, except for a select few.
To many visitors, particularly foreigners, the sight of the elderly men riding worn-out bicycles with a passenger or a load of goods in the back seat is imbued with memories.
The drivers, often seen waiting for passengers at the city’s hallmarks including Dong Ba Market and Truong Tien Bridge, are a perfect match for the tranquil and cozy ambience for which the touristic town is famous.
Seated behind the drivers, passengers can relish an air of nostalgia away from the hustle and bustle while admiring the scenery around the town.
Taxing yet rewarding job
Among the reminiscent, daily fixtures is Ton That Tam, who has been on the job for 40 years.
Seated on his worn-out bicycle on the path leading to Trang Tien Bridge, the 70-year-old is quick to respond to any potential hailer, signaling to offer his service at a nod.
Next to him is his old-fashioned bike, his long-time companion that cost quite a fortune when it was new.
In the guise of a tourist, I asked the old man to drive him around the town for VND200,000 (US$8.6).
Tam pushed his bike for momentum for a while before briskly mounting the saddle.
Despite his old age, he pedaled almost effortlessly around, except for uphill climbs when he asked the passenger to travel on foot instead.
The bubbly, talkative man did not mind lending a personal touch to his ride, treating his customer to all kinds of tidbits, including why he has stuck to this century-old trade.
He claimed direct descent from the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam’s last monarchy who reigned during the 19th and early 20th centuries. His tie seems more persuasive with his full and middle names, which are typical of those carried by the royal family members.
Tam shared he has gone through ups and downs during the 40 years working gig after gig on the bike.
There were times when he even doubted he could survive.
In a struggle to make ends meet, he borrowed money to buy a bicycle and work as a driver, he recalled.
“The classy Thong Nhat bike was quite a fortune back then. Getting around town on a bike taxi was once the favorite of passengers,” he wistfully recalled, referring to the brand of his bicycle.
“Doing the xe dap tho job could mean easy cash, with money constantly rolling in at the time.”
The veteran driver also revealed multiple occasions when he received several times as much as the ride fares from generous passengers.
On one such instance, he was hailed by a heavily-built Western man and received VND200,000, a handsome sum then, in remuneration for a short-distance ride.
What is special is that the foreign visitor, not Tam, was the driver.
It all began when the senior driver struggled in vain to get his bike moving with his burly customer seated behind.
The customer signaled Tam to move to the back seat and quickly pedaled to the destination.
“Life is full of unexpected things. The bike may look plain, but it never ceases to amaze many,” the seasoned driver noted, adding the pluses of getting around on a bike taxi include refreshing draughts of air and reminiscent experiences of the olden days.
Past its prime
According to stories from drivers and locals, the xe dap tho trade saw its heyday decades ago.
Back in the 1980s, when traffic remained light and people relied on xe lam (three-wheeled taxis) and xich lo (cyclos), xe dap tho was the form of bike taxi most prevalent amongst local commuters.
Nguyen Van Khai, Tam’s colleague who mostly operates at Dong Ba Market, revealed earnings for diligent bikers would allow them to buy half a mace (about two grams) of gold at that time.
“One was able to purchase a plot of land with a few maces of gold,” Khai reminiscently recounted.
“The job offered us the stability of decent income compared to others.”
The popularity of the job began to wane as more residents owned a bicycle.
As the cycle of poverty was broken and lives improved, local residents bought motorbikes which quickly began to make deep inroads into the community.
As their incomes plummet, only Tam and Khai and a dozen of their colleagues grind on with the job for a living.
Handsome remuneration and tips from generous hailers are getting much harder to come by these days.
Phan Van Vui, 68, another xe dap tho driver operating mostly at Dong Ba Market, almost jumped with excitement at a job offer from a stall owner.
He eagerly nodded at the stall owner’s VND8,000 ($0.3) bargain for him to deliver a container of confectionery to a market nearby — his first ride in the whole morning.
In no time, the old man hit the road and returned to the same spot a few minutes later.
“I can’t afford a motorbike,” Vui explained when asked why he does not buy a motorbike for taxi services.
“I’m paid a mere VND3,000-10,000 [$0.1- 0.4] for each short ride, and receive VND15,000-20,000 [$0.6-0.9] for occasional longer rides.
“I’m an old man now.
“If I take out loans, I don’t know when I’m able to pay back.”
Despite their own daily grind, the silver-haired drivers encourage themselves to stick up through adversities and are ready to help the ones in need.
According to Nguyen Van Dan, a local xe om (motorbike taxi) driver, more than 10 people still work as xe dap tho drivers.
The drivers currently operate under Hue City’s Cyclo, Bike, and Taxi Association, aiming to bring the best services to domestic and international passengers, said Dan, who is on the organization’s steering board.
“No matter what their mode of travel is, all the member drivers hold on together and abide by the association rules,” he said.
“If a motorbike taxi driver gets a short-distance ride offer, he will refer it to his bicycle taxi counterpart.
“On the other way around, a bicycle taxi driver is willing to pass on a longer-distance ride to his motorbike taxi fellow member.”
The organizing board of Miss World Vietnam 2021 has made an allowance in the biennial beauty pageant’s regulations for women who have undergone plastic surgery to participate in the contest.
The new allowance, based on a government decree, was introduced at the competition’s press conference in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday.
This is the second iteration of Miss World Vietnam – a pageant held to select a Vietnamese representative for the Miss World competition and other international beauty contests.
The first Miss World Vietnam edition was held in 2019.
Themed ‘Suc Song Viet Nam’ (Vietnamese Vitality), this year’s competition will focus on volunteer projects and advertising the country as a safe and friendly destination in order to help boost the local tourism industry.
The pageant’s preliminary round is scheduled to take place in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi this September, with the semifinals planned for October.
The finale will be held in the tourist city of Vung Tau in southern Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province in November.
Judges of the beauty contest will include Le Xuan Son, editor-in-chief of Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper, Miss Vietnam 1992 Ha Kieu Anh, Miss Vietnam 2018 Tran Tieu Vy, Miss World Vietnam 2019 Luong Thuy Linh, singer Dam Vinh Hung, and two more people who have yet to be named.
In addition to the crown, the Miss World Vietnam 2021 title-holder will receive VND300 million (US$13,000) in cash.
The contest’s first runner-up will be awarded VND150 million ($6,500), while the second runner-up will receive VND100 million ($4,330).
The contest will also recognize the contestants with a handful of other awards, including Beauty with a Purpose, Talented Beauty, ‘Ao dai’ (Vietnam’s traditional long gown) Beauty, Sea Beauty, Fashion Beauty, Media Beauty, Sports Beauty, and the Beauty with the most beautiful skin.
The contestant who wins the Beauty with a Purpose title will secure a wild card entry into the top five finalists.