by Chu Lan Huong
People flocked to Sa Pa and Mau Son Mountain in the mountainous provinces of Lao Cai and Lang Son last weekend to enjoy the snow and ice produced by the exceptionally cold weather.
"I was like a cat on hot bricks when one of my friends called saying it snowed in Sa Pa. I wanted to be there immediately. I had not see snow in my life," said Trinh Thu Ha, a teacher in Ha Noi.
"In previous years, there was snow in Sa Pa, but I could not go. This time, I could not miss it again."
Like Ha, thousands of people - many from southern provinces - went to Sa Pa last weekend to see the snow, a rarity in the tropical country.
Over the past few days, social media has been flooded with photos of young people playing in the snow, as if it were a winter day in a European country.
Across the blanket of snow, people were both happy and excited. They built snowmen, threw snowballs, skied and took photographs to post on Facebook.
However, along with the beautiful and splendid photos, contrasting images of miserable ethic children with bare feet and thin clothing surfaced in the freezing weather.
These were images of local farmers with empty eyes crying in their damaged vegetable gardens and cattle that died due to the snow and ice.
While visitors felt excitement, the snow only brought worry and loss to the local people, especially poor ethnic minorities.
Media reported that the record week-long cold spell killed hundreds of cattle – the most valuable assets of many Vietnamese farmers – in the northern mountainous provinces of Lao Cai, Hoa Binh and Cao Bang.
In Sa Pa district, the harsh weather killed 80 cattle, 250ha of vegetables were blanketed by snow and ice, and 76ha of medicinal herbs were totally destroyed.
"When I heard the news of snow falling down in Sa Pa, my hometown, I felt sad and anxious," said Nguyen Van Hung, 20, a student in Ha Noi. "Snow means that hunger will come to my family and poor people in the days leading up to Tet."
The harrowing images have been spreading across the internet, generating controversial opinions among the community.
There have been fierce arguments on social networks pertaining to the snow in Sa Pa and Mau Son.
Many described the visitors who came to see the snow as emotionless and insensitive because they laughed in the face of other people's sorrow and misery.
"My daughters and I were very excited to see it was snowing in Sa Pa. We planned a trip there," said Tran Phuong Mai, 42, who works in a bank in Ha Noi.
"I was excited to search online for information for the trip. But my joy and excitement faded immediately and was replaced by an image of a half-naked boy standing and crying under the snow."
Mai added, "I would have felt guilty if I went on the trip."
Others argued that the visitors had no ill intent, and the snow would have kept falling regardless, so visitors might as well enjoy it.
Cam Tu, the mother of two boys who took a trip to Sa Pa with her friends, said, "It was not a sin to enjoy the snow. A wish to see snow falling is not related to the misery of the local people."
"The snow has even brought income to the local people in Sa Pa by hosting a large number of unexpected visitors during this time," Tu said. "And in Sa Pa in recent days, many local children were enjoying the snow."
After upsetting images of the people in mountainous areas spread on social media, some groups of young backpackers have organised charity drives to bring warm clothes and Tet gifts to mountainous areas.
So, is it worth blaming people for enjoying the snow? — VNS