An eccentric retrospective on 2018 stories

By Dang Khoa   December 18, 2018 | 06:06 am PT
Looking back at a year that’s almost gone, there’s the good, the bad, the ugly and… the strange.

1. Monk captures pagoda thieves using dustpan

Stealing money is no laughing matter, especially so when it is stolen from a sacred place like a pagoda. But video footage of a monk chasing down thief with a dustpan at the Van Phuong Pagoda in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province certainly raised a laugh or two.

2. Hanoi publicizes sex workers’ hangouts

Suspected sex workers and potential customers on Lieu Giai Street, Hanoi, a night in 2014. Photo by VnExpress/File

Alleged sex workers and potential customers on Lieu Giai Street, Hanoi, a night in 2014. Photo by VnExpress/File

In a bizarre attempt at shaming those engaging in sex work, authorities recently revealed 10 spots that most sex workers hang out waiting for customers. These include several streets, a park and a bus station in the districts of Hoan Kiem, Hai Ba Trung, Hoang Mai, Bac Tu Liem, and Ba Dinh. But the public was not impressed. They said they could not care less about the hangouts. They would, however, be very interested in the publicizing of government officials' assets. Some said that there’s not much the government can do to stop the world's oldest profession, and... some said they now know exactly where to go to in Hanoi.

3. Permanently flooded café, with fish for company

This coffee shop in Saigon’s Tan Binh District is always flooded, but it is not a creative use of the flooding that the city is subjected to these days. Here, customers are invited to get their feet wet while enjoying their coffee, tea or other beverages on offer. This unique pet café has fish to keep customers company. The customers do the drinking, the fish do the nibbling.

4. HCMC thieves specialize in daylight robbery

Security camera footage of a thief driving away after stealing display screens on a busy street in broad daylight is just one instance of a new trend. In the first nine months of the year, 140 public devices were stolen at more than 100 locations across HCMC. Being bold as brass is the new sneaky.

5. Lucky phone number sells for $1 million in Vietnam

The buyer (L) and previous owner hold up a phone displaying the super SIM phone number. Photo by VnExpress

The buyer (L) and previous owner hold up a phone displaying the 'super SIM' phone number. Photo by VnExpress

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a lucky phone number. In Vietnamese culture, nine is widely regarded as a very lucky number, so those who are already very lucky, meaning very rich, are willing to spend a fortune to add to their luck, meaning a phone number that has the number nine. So back in August, a construction materials trader in Saigon sold his SIM card with phone number 0909999999 for $1 million to a dealer famous for dealing in special SIM card numbers. We can safely assume that both the seller and buyer are on cloud nine.

6. Why did the chicken cross the road? Ducks, we mean

The proverbial chicken has had to step aside in Vietnam to make way for a brace or a badling of ducks. Video footage of this brace of ducks crossing the road near Tay Ninh Province in southern Vietnam showed the fowl committing no foul. They queued up to cross the road at a zebra crossing in a very orderly manner. They also confirmed an answer to the proverbial question: Why did the chicken (or ducks) cross the road? To get to the other side.

7. Gives us this day our daily bread, and make it a big one, please

The southern province of An Giang has the unique distinction of regularly producing a meter-long, three-kilo bread that went viral on social media. The bread has found recognition of travel site Brightside as one of the world’s strangest foods. The bread costs VND50,000 ($2.14) per loaf and takes an hour to be roasted in the oven. The baker seems to know which side of his bread is buttered.

8. When milk tea shops play ball

It is no surprise that in a football crazy country like Vietnam, businesses look to tap into the craziness. As Vietnam entered the semifinals of the Asia U23 Championship in January, a popular milk tea shop announced it would serve free drinks to anyone named Bui Tien Dung, the name of the goalkeeper of the team. Some shops played with numbers by offering 23 percent discounts, fixed prices of VND230,000, and offered other promotions for customers aged 23. Others offered preferential prices for those wearing the national’ flags color, red. No one saw red about this less than subtle marketing binge.

9. When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade

Residents of Da Nang took this adage to heart earlier this month, as the northeast monsoon dumped record amounts of rainfall. The city’s streets were so badly flooded that some residents began moving around in boats and kayaks. Tourism companies are reportedly rubbing their hands in anticipation for the next flooding to hit major cities, so that they can offer visitors the unforgettable experience of kayaking on major Vietnamese city streets.

10. There are football crazy fans, and there’s this

Phuc wears jewelry worth around $560,000. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Anh

Tran Ngoc Phuc wears jewelry worth around $560,000 to bring luck to the Vietnamese men's football team. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Anh

To win gold, wear gold. One Vietnamese football fan who believes in feng shui wore 13 kilos of gold jewelry last week on the Nguyen Hue walking street in Saigon as he watched and cheered the national football team against Malaysia in the first leg of the AFF Cup final. Tran Ngoc Phuc believes that wearing gold has great, positive effects on health and work. He wears all his jewelry on special occasions, like when the national men’s football team plays a match. Match that.

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