The time around the 15th day of the seventh lunar month is always the busiest for makers of paper votive offerings in Ha Noi – and throughout the rest of the country. It's Vu Lan, when Vietnamese and many other East Asians pay special attention to their ancestors and other departed souls, including the Hungry Ghosts, those who died in accidental or tragic circumstances and those without anyone to honour them.
And it's become even more special nowadays as many Vietnamese tie it in with Mother's Day. The occasion traditionally calls for food and wine in front of the ancestral altar – often real because it's later shared with the family – plus varieties of paper offerings, including imitation paper money, that is later burnt.
But this year, it's "a bit old hat" to offer artfully made iPhones and iPads or top appliances, such as side-by-side fridges, 3D LCD TV sets and washing machines. Indeed, 2012 will go down as the year that the relations on earth thought to add perfect little paper models of petrol stations to go with the paper Mercedes, Audis and Hondas also sent to heaven.
The departed are obviously also finding things "up there" a bit tougher as the price of petrol starts to spiral down here. Without some "juice", all those luxurious paper vehicles sent up in smoke are going to be going nowhere.
But while the latest version of a paper iPad costs only about VND50,000 (US$2.30), a petrol station comes with a tag of VND150,000-200,000 ($7-9). But the whole thing really doesn't seem to be getting out of hand when some people ask for paper driving licences and helmets!
But no votive petrol station would be complete without its own paper strong box to hold all the cash. These, of course, cost extra!
We'll keep you postered!
Last Thursday, a series of advertising panels for a musical show in old Hai Phong City were withdrawn after a day's exposure. The posters were for Vu dieu duong cong (Curvey dance) and featured showbiz models and artists wearing bikinis. Some of the poster gals were also described as "Queens of Lingerie" and "Devils of Luxury Brands", phrases possibly adapted from the movie The Devil Wears Prada. The show also promised a wine-filled party in a Las Vegas-style disco. The posters drew further attention by banning anyone under 18-years of age (which is the law, anyway) – plus "old or virtuous and decent women".
All of this not only set tongues wagging, but led the Chief Inspector of the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Pham On, to say that the contents of the advertisement were much different from how they had been registered. But he also admitted that there was no regulation to state that the ban on "virtuous and decent women" was illegal. Meanwhile, the show's organiser, Viet Nam Artists Association Joint Stock Company, has claimed that the panels were printed from a back-up version and it was all a mistake. But if the show had gone ahead, some may wonder who would be the audience.
Virtuous and decent women would not need any bans anyway. And those who were of loose virtue and indecent would probably not want to air their affairs in public anyway. We'll keep you postered!
The People's Court in central Da Nang City's Thanh Khe District last week jailed a 26-year-old woman for six months for shoplifting at a supermarket – for the second time. Le Thi Kim Chi admitted to pinching the stuff in September 2010. But while being arrested, Chi used her sister's name Le Thi Thanh Phuong. Chi, alias "Phuong", was given six-months in jail two months later and finished the sentence.
Early last year, the real Phuong, 30, was caught red-handed also stealing stuff from a supermarket in central Hue City. However, police, with the help of forensic scientists, suddenly discovered that she was not the one who stole from Da Nang in 2010. So last week, the Da Nang court ordered that Phuong be cleared of the first offence.
How will they ever explain this to the children? — VNS