Rice wine and beer have become an indispensable part of Tet. And drink driving, particularly among younger members of society, is a regular occurrence, all too often with tragic consequences.
This is why this year the district authorities in central Quang Nam Province decided to take action. Instead of relying on motorbike drivers to behave responsibly and abide by the law, they called on residents to hand over their motorbike key to their village elders ahead of the Lunar New Year.
Villagers were told that if they needed their bikes in an emergency, they had to ask their village headmen for the key, which would be returned to them if they demonstrated they could drive their bike safely.
Elder members of society are held in such high regard that it was reported by one local People's Committee that this year every villager who owned a motorbike in the district obeyed the request. And those who were deemed unfit to ride their bikes accepted the gentle refusal without complaint.
The more wily ensured they had a spare key at home.
It beggars belief
The other day my friend was hurrying to work on her motorbike when she noticed a forlorn looking young man of perhaps 18 or 19 kneeling on the side of the road near her house. It was a very cold day and she was disturbed to see that he was scantily clad and appeared to be crippled. But she was late and so sped passed.
All day at work her conscience was gnawing away at her. She thought of his imploring eyes, and wondered what misfortune had befallen the unfortunate young man. In fact, she wondered if he might not freeze to death – it was one of the coldest days of the year.
Returning home in the late afternoon, she was relieved to see he was still kneeling in the same spot, and still conscious. She stopped her bike and asked him what he was doing kneeling by the roadside in the freezing cold. "My bag was stolen. I do not have enough money to pay for a coach ticket back to my home town," he said sadly. "Where is that?" she asked.
It transpired he was from Bac Kan Province, about 170 kilometre from Ha Noi.
"How much do you need?" my friend asked.
"I need VND150,000 (US$7.2). I've got VND50,000 ($2.4) from begging today," he replied.
Without hesitation, my friend took out VND150,000 ($7.2) from her wallet and gave it to him. She even handed over some food she was going to prepare for her husband's meal that night. She urged him to rush to the coach station and get home as quickly as possible.
With tears welling in his eyes, he thanked her and wished her good fortune as she drove away, her conscience salved.
You can imagine her surprise when she noticed the young man two days later kneeling down on a different street corner. He didn't recognise her when she asked him what he was doing.
"My bag was stolen," he said miserably. "I do not have enough money to pay for the coach to get home."
Shaking all over
It is tough getting back into the daily grind after a long holiday,
and no more so than for over-worked and poorly paid local officials. This is why the Binh Hung Hoa B Ward People's Committee in HCM City's Binh Tam District hit on the idea of providing a little light entertainment to perk workers up after the longer-than-usual Tet holiday. And for the purpose, scantily clad belly dancers were hired to lighten the mood.
Such was the delight of the audience – which consisted of local officials, police officers, retired civil servants and housing committee members – that some recorded the performance on their mobile phones.
This is how the story got out. But the public response was far from favourable. It seems that the men in grey are expected to behave in a professional manner while spending taxpayers' money – at least while in the office. — VNS