In an urban Ha Noi named Trung Van, uncompleted villas are serving as temporary residences for homeless people and construction workers.
While there is no electricity or water, the roofs and walls keep the weather out. As the dwellings have been left unattended by their owners, those hard pressed for accommodation often go to them to cook on open fires, play cards, drink and then sleep for the night.
Local people complain that the unofficial tenants throw rubbish out into the open after cooking as there are no bins available. "Since the owners do not come to check the situation, the uninvited keep on arriving," a local woman said.
Empty villas are not as rare as it may seem. In the capital, there are many awaiting a new surge of capital so that can be completed. The modern urban area of Van Khe in Ha Noi's Ha Dong District has a block of similar villas.
Only four out of a total of more than 20 have been sold. The rest have been left vacant or rented out to vendors of street food or for car and motorbike washes.
A real-estate businessman told the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that he had five completed, but vacant, houses in the area despite all efforts over the past three years. He is now offering them for rent at low prices because he does not want to see them taken over by the homeless.
Tran Ngoc Hung, president of the Viet Nam Federation of Civil Engineering Associations, told the newspaper that unfinished apartments and villas had also become a home for urban drug addicts. This is a sure sign that the economic bubble has burst!
Paddy field of love
To express love for his wife, Sin Van Tinh, a middle-aged farmer in Then Phang Commune in Xin Man, northern mountain Ha Giang Province, has proved to be one of the most romantic gents in the nation.
As a poor farmer, Tinh did not have enough money to buy expensive gifts such as gold bracelets or ear-rings for his wife, Sung Thi Ve. Instead, he came up with the idea of planting a heart-shaped rice field for her. As he says: "It is a symbol of my eternal love for her, as the field was not something to lose easily."
On a central piece of his paddy field, Tinh carved out a large heart shaped rice field to express his devotion and dedication. Ve could not fail to get the message because the field dominates the centre of Tinh's farm. The happy couple have three children.
Weddings become festivals
Yen Lac Town in northern Vinh Phuc Province has its own special rule for wedding celebrations.
Accordingly, weddings can be held on just two days of the month - the second and the sixteenth days of the lunar calendar. Fortunately, these are generally considered to be the best dates for nuptial celebrations.
Unfortunately, there are also specific rules on the way weddings are organised. They must not use stages and, believe it or not, flowers are discouraged - along with the use of energy-consuming lights and loudspeakers.
Pham Van Luan, deputy chairman of the town's People's Committee, says the rules were set and agreed upon by local people so that the community can do its part in saving energy and costs.
To some country people, the rules make good sense. In particular, the rule of holding weddings on only two days of the month can cut wedding feast costs.
For example, if a family is invited to several weddings, separate members of a family can attend each event on behalf of the family group.This way, the hosts save on preparing meals for a whole family.
Another time-saving factor is that people do not have to spend so much time attending weddings each month. Despite what city people may think, the new rules actually fit in with much of country thinking.
Locals say the two days set aside for weddings makes them like a huge, common community festival. Everyone seems to have some fun.
While one local woman said the rules limited the freedom of families to celebrate, most local people actually enjoy the new arrangement. It is even considered a special custom unique to their town.
But no one has yet got around to cracking down on one of the most expensive aspects of the wedding business - the handing out of cash envelopes to the happy couples. No one is brave enough! — VNS