by Thu Anh
Miss Healthy is Miss Beautiful
Has the obsession with looking good at all costs including undergoing expensive plastic surgeries turned a corner?
It might have. "For me, being beautiful is being healthy," says Pham Van Khanh, the owner of a restaurant in HCM City, who began studying yoga two years ago. Khanh believes that a young woman today should put a premium on her health – not so much her beauty – because "without it, I can't do my job well."
The 31-year-old says she often takes time out of her busy schedule to exercise and do charity work as well.
Working in business, Khanh sees many of her colleagues, male and female, working long hours, avoiding sports and even entertainment.
Some people spend time and money to improve their appearance at beauty salons, she says, but see little change.
After learning yoga from an Indian master, Khanh discovered that it is a great way to be of sound body and mind.
"I prefer doing yoga at home after work. It helps me escape from stress and keeps me peaceful and calm."
Unlike Khanh, Tran Truc Linh is a student. She visits the gym at the Women's Cultural House twice a week to work out.
Apart from keeping fit, "I can also meet many people and have good relationships with some of them. It makes me more cheerful," she says.
Linh, who is short and thin, has never felt beautiful, but her friends see her differently.
"I think they see me as more attractive because I'm healthy. I have no reason to doubt their view," she says, smiling.
Khanh and Linh typify many urban Vietnamese women who are increasingly focusing more on health than their beauty.
They are crowding gyms, parks and sports centres in their quest to remain fit.
Yoga teacher Srinivas Suresh Kamal, who works at a popular fitness centre in HCM City, says doing exercises or playing sports help people live healthier and longer lives while maintaining their looks and strength.
He says practising yoga is very useful for people in urban areas who are exposed to all kinds of pollution. He feels that with regular practice yoga, people can be called old only "when they reach 100."
For young women like Khanh and Linh, it is not a question of their longevity, but the confidence they gain when they are healthy.
It makes them more attractive, and they need no further make-up.
More for less in a wedding dress
Nguyen Thi Nguyet, a factory worker at the Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone, walked along shops on Ba Thang Hai Street in HCM City with her boyfriend, looking at wedding dresses.
Their initial excitement soon fell flat, and she said she even felt a little depressed.
"Renting an imported dress and pair of gloves for just two days costs VND2.5 million to 4.5million (US$110-$220), while domestic dresses with imported fabrics cost around VND1.5million. And an ao dai (traditional dress), at least VND900,000.
"The prices made our heads spin," she said.
But the depression did not last. Nguyet knew where she could go and get a suitable wedding dress for a suitable price. "Tan Binh Market is the place."
For several years now, Tan Binh Market has offered wedding dresses - western gowns or the traditional ao dai at prices the working class people can afford.
The market has 30 shops selling or making a range of wedding gowns at reasonable prices. Some even offer package services that cover the dresses, make-up, cars, photography, videos and wedding receptions.
Nguyet brought home a white wedding dress for VND450,000. "It's great," she said, with a happy smile.
She said she has two younger sisters, one 21 and the other 18, and both will get married soon.
"I will give my wedding gown to my sisters," she said. "In my homeland, Quang Binh Province, a wedding dress in the western style is a dream for young women."
Nguyet's boyfriend was also happy.
"We want to save money for our future family. I just want to rent a suit and tie for between VND50,000 and VND150,000. That's enough for me. "Money- a lot or a little- shouldn't matter if you're in love." — VNS