by Hoang Ha
A different sort of gift wrap
As Christmas fever takes over HCM City, buildings and sidewalks are sparkling with creative decorations and adorable Christmas trees are springing up all over the place. Three colourful, unusual Xmas trees, however, are casting a brighter glow than the rest. Adorned by 9,000 unwrapped condoms, the trees are part of a programme called "A Merry Christmas for HIV/AIDS-infected children."
The biggest of the three trees, around 3m high and made of 6,000 unwrapped condoms, decorates the glass door at the Flower Box shop in District 1's Dinh Tien Hoang Street. The two smaller trees, made of 1,500 condoms each, stand at branches of the same shop in District 1's Hai Ba Trung Street and District 3's Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street.
The somewhat strange-looking trees with twinkling lights have attracted both adults and children, curious to know what they mean.
A representative of the flower artist group Flower Box said the idea was supported strongly by the HCM City AIDS Prevention Committee as a humanitarian initiative in the fight to prevent HIV/AIDS.
"The message we want to deliver is that everybody needs to know about safe sex so as to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS to children. And with increased awareness, those who contract the disease will be able to reintegrate into society once they are cured and live a healthy lifestyle."
During the programme, which lasts until Christmas Eve, Flower Box will give customers a five per cent discount that they can directly donate to the AIDS Prevention Committee towards giving gifts and holding Christmas parties for HIV/AIDS infected children.
Programme organisers are hoping the rare Christmas trees will increase awareness of the need for people to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, and stop discrimination against infected people.
A safe Cafe om
If you tell someone you are going to a Cafe om, they will give you knowing winks and nudges or shoot you looks of disapproval. They assume, of course, that you are going to have some "hugging fun" with a comely lass or two, while having your coffee or some other beverage.
But there is a new kind of Cafe om that is very "safe" to go to and does not carry a salacious tag. In this new cafeé that has already become quite popular among the youth, all the hugging fun you have is with your best friend… well, everybody's best friend.
There is no guilt or tension involved in patronising this cafe om. In fact, the effect is quite the opposite, it is a great way to release stress and tension, having fun with cute dogs that the cafeé kindly supplies you with.
Such cafes are already popular in Japan and South Korea. Guests are drawn to these cafeterias not by the bitter taste of the coffee or the sweetness and wholeness of smoothies, but by the comfort offered by playing with cute dogs.
Accordingly, guests are charged for playing with the well-groomed pets and having photographs taken with them.
A free drink is also part of the package. Thanh Tam, a resident of District 3, said the dogs at such cafes are friendly, clean, and "sweet-smelling." Many of them are imported dogs that can easily adapt to the city's climate – Golden Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, Old English Sheep Dog, Siberian Husky and others.
If guests want to bring their own pet, they have to bring an updated health book showing the dog or dogs have received all necessary vaccinations and are not carrying any infectious disease.
Dogs at this cafeteria have a short curriculum vitae along with their picture hanging on the wall so that guests can know their name, race and other characteristics. — VNS