Willy-nilly, water lily: hamlet that went on a twinning spree

By Ngoc Tai   June 16, 2021 | 05:15 am PT
Phuoc Khanh Hamlet has the highly unusual distinction of being home to 17 pairs of twins born on a 700m road stretch. A prime suspect: the water lily.

The hamlet, located in An Giang Province's An Phu District, has got an unsurprising nickname: the "Twins Hamlet."

Pham Ngoc Liep, who has two twin grandchildren in the hamlet, said: "Almost every household here has a pair of twins. Come to think of it, it's a bit unusual."

The hamlet has 17 pairs of twins who have rhyming names, including a pair called An Phu and An Giang, named after the district and province, and another called Lu and Lut (lu lut means heavy flood in Vietnamese) since the twins were born during a historical flood that struck the region in 2000.

Kim Ly and Kim Yen are named after two big gold shops in the Chau Doc Town in the hope that the two girls will grow up and own gold shops one day.

The first twins are 80 years old – Bay Nghi and her younger brother Tam Nghia; and the youngest twins, Ngoc Nhu and Ngoc Y, are 8 years old. The remaining twins include those in the 40s and those born between 2000 and 2013.

Two twin boys, sons of Cao Thi Diem, play games with each other. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai.

Loi Pham and Loc Pham, sons of Cao Thi Diem and Pham No Han, play games with each other. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai.

Cao Thi Diem, 39-year-old mother of 9-year-old twin boys, said that she and her husband had no plans to have many children since they are laborers and often struggle to make ends meet. After having a boy and a girl, they wanted another daughter and then stop having kids.

"I got pregnant again when my second child was only 10 months old. So I asked him whether to keep the baby or not. He said I should keep the child, adding that we should be responsible for making the baby," she said.

She could not afford an ultrasound, but an accident, when she was hit by a car, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The person responsible for the accident paid for an ultrasound and she learned that she was pregnant with twins. She gave birth to two beautiful boys.

Even though she had to raise four small children, Diem did not take any "maternal leave" and kept working while her husband Pham No Han worked as a hired laborer from dawn to dusk everyday without a break.

But the couple broke their "plan" and went on to have another daughter and are now raising five children.

The lily connection

"No one can explain why this stretch of road has many twins. Locals assume that this phenomenon was caused by eating water lilies harvested from a nearby lake. About 10 years ago, the lake was drained and converted into farming land. After that, the hamlet stopped recording twins," Diem said.

Some locals also believe that having twins is determined by genetics. No Han, for instance, has younger twin brothers - Phan Van Chien and Phan Van Thang. They are 32 years old now. After getting married in 2008, Chien's wife gave birth to two identical girls, before Han and his wife had their pair.

However, most of the remaining families with twins are not related, so the genetics argument was not widely accepted. It also appears that no social or biological scientist has studied the unusual phenomenon.

While the hamlet’s residents do not have a solid explanation, the families with twins are happy to have them.

Ta Thi Thu Thuy, 43, mother of three daughters including a pair of twins, continues to cuddle, hug and kisses all of them. "It took a lot of hard work for me to raise them this big," she said. Sometimes, looking from behind at the twins, Thuy often gets their names mixed.

Furthermore, instead of feeling the burden of having to nurture and educate three children, the couple are so pleased that they are growing up into hard working and bright students that they are eager to have even more children.

Twin sisters Kim Ngan and Kim Ha studying at home. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai.

Twin sisters Kim Ngan and Kim Ha study at home. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai.

"I will have more kids if I know for sure that I will have another pair of twins. Since that is not certain, we decided to stop," said another father of two twin sisters, smiling.

After hearing of the hamlet with many twins, people from other localities have flocked to the place to "learn the experience."

Catch the man

While mothers having twins just laugh and say, "It's God’s blessing," some of the husbands humorously assert it is their doing.

Since most of the married women here are from another commune, "If you want to have twins, get married to men in this hamlet", joked the father of a pair of twins.

Ha Thi Huyen Giao, a doctor at Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tam Tri Dong Thap General Hospital, said the rate of having twins in the world is currently about 1-1.5 percent, double that of 40 years ago.

In the past, Vietnam had a lower rate of twins than the world, but now it is not much different due to people having access to and success in infertility treatment.

The cause of have so many natural twins in the hamlet has not been identified by researchers, but having twins depends on factors such as age of pregnant woman, number of births given and other factors. For instance, some factors such as skin color, ethnicity and living environment have been reported to increase the likelihood of twins, but this is not a common occurrence.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the chance of having twins via genetics from the maternal side is 1.66 percent, while the figure for men is only 0.8 percent.

Twins can be inherited by skipping a generation, with grandparents have twins, parents having normal births and their offspring having twins.

Le Thi Bich Thuy, chairwoman of Phuoc Hung Commune People's Committee, said that all 17 cases of twins in Phuoc Khanh Hamlet were born to women who became pregnant naturally.

She said no one knows until now why the hamlet has so many twins. "The senior citizens here all say they didn't follow any special diet or pray for twins."

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