French photographer whisks his ‘most beautiful woman’ to Saigon studio

By Tam Ky   June 1, 2017 | 11:23 pm PT
Bui Thi Xong was in Saigon for the first time to visit the studio displaying her famous portrait by Réhahn Croquevielle.

Bui Thi Xong with French photographer Rehahn Croquevielle and her famous portrait. When it was taken she was driving passengers on her battered boat in Hoi An during the summer of 2011 and was shy of the camera. Réhahn used the portrait as the cover for his book “Vietnam: Mosaic of Contrasts” because for him it represented the joy of life despite old age and poverty. He has promoted the piece around the world and in his hometown in France, calling his character “the world’s most beautiful woman”.


Crediting Xong as the person who has earned him global fame, Réhahn invited her as the first person to visit his new studio in Ho Chi Minh City, which also features his photos in Cuba, India and Malaysia. “When I took her photo, we did not think it would change the life of both of us,” Réhahn said.


The 80-year-old woman still makes a living carrying tourists across rivers in Hoi An, but with a new boat that the photographer gifted her after his portrait book became a success.


The pair take a cyclo tour in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Xong said she was surprised to see few people walking in the city. “And it’s hotter than in Hoi An,” she said.


They have lunch at Ben Thanh Market, where many passers-by recognized her and stopped to take photos. “I’m not so beautiful as everyone says,” she said, laughing.


Xong looks over the city from a skyscraper. She traveled to Hanoi in March 2016 when her photo, titled “Hidden Smile”, was exhibited at the Hanoi Women’s Museum.

Photos by VnExpress/Ha My

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