return icon

Bodily limits overcome by creativity

There is no limit on creativity and no disadvantage could ever prevent you from being creative, and you need to look no further than Trieu Hong Ho Em from Cho Moi District in the Mekong Delta’s An Giang Province for an example of how true that is.

HANDY SKILL: Trieu Hong Ho Em in his workshop. Making bamboo products helps him share the financial burden with his mother. Photo courtesy of Trieu Hong Ho Em

Looking at his sophisticated miniatures of traditional Vietnamese musical instruments, stilt houses, and flowers, all made of bamboo, it’s a little hard to believe they were created by a man suffering from a disability.

Em was struck by polio at the age of nine, which led to muscle atrophy, making it hard for him to walk or move his neck. An excellent student up to that point, his poor health forced him to end his studies in Grade 6.

As a child, he used pieces of bamboo left over from when his father’s made fishing traps as toys.

One day, while lying prone, his eyes focused on a piece of bamboo in the corner of his home, and the idea of creating something interesting from it flashed into his mind. He could never have imagined back then that one day his bamboo miniatures would help him earn a living.

His first creations were tiny houses, in particular traditional long houses of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, each of which took him just a day, whittling the bamboo and shaping it in a fairly simple process.

Those first products he gave to relatives and friends as gifts. It wasn’t until 2010, when he had become proficient, did he decide to craft bamboo products for sale as a means to make ends meet and support his mother.

FINE DESIGNS: One of Em’s miniature bamboo villas. Photo courtesy of Trieu Hong Ho Em

“My father became ill and passed away, and my elder brother was killed in an accident,” the 32-year-old recalled. “My health is poor and I can’t do any heavy work, so the burden of earning money for the family was on my mother.”

“She sold vegetables at the market every day. I became determined to overcome my handicap and earn money to share the burden. My first creation, a traditional long house, sold for VND35,000 (US$1.5) and I was overjoyed.”

Making more complex products can involve many stages, such as drying the bamboo, sawing, whittling, shaping, and polishing, in addition to many trivial but key stages.

“Every stage is important,” he explained. “For example, if the bamboo pieces are not whittled smoothly, the creation won’t have a beautiful shape, while if the bamboo is not dried properly it might lose its shape or be susceptible to termites.”

“As long as the craftsman has passion, puts his mind to the task, and finishes every step carefully, a perfect product will result.”

BEST SELLER: Em’s collection of miniature traditional Vietnamese musical instruments is one of his most popular items. Photo courtesy of Trieu Hong Ho Em

He has now made hundreds of bamboo miniatures, the most sophisticated of which are those of villas or others with particular architectural features, as he has to calculate the correct scale.

Many times, when a product fails to meet his expectations, Em will work through the night until he feels satisfied. His hands are calloused and marked by knife and sharpened bamboo cuts, but he continues in the knowledge that he has found his life’s calling.

His disability, however, prevents him from promoting his products far and wide, so he gives some to relatives and acquaintances and asks them to help introduce them to buyers.

Able to access the internet and with his own Facebook page, he has begun to receive more orders, especially around special occasions like Tet (the Lunar New Year) or the International Women’s Day.

BAMBOO BLOOM: A bunch of flowers in a pot. Photo courtesy of Trieu Hong Ho Em

Nguyen Hoang Anh Thu from Binh Thanh District in HCM City came to know about Em’s products via Facebook a few years ago and has since become a regular customer.

She uses his bamboo creations to decorate her café and also gives them to friends as gifts.

“They are so meticulously made and delicate that most people become quite interested in them,” she said.

Ten years after starting his own business, Em has a stable number of regular customers but his income fluctuates from month to month.

“This line of work depends on a range of factors, including the weather and my own health,” he explained. “When I feel well, I can earn a little more. When it rains a lot, the bamboo can’t be dried, so I earn less.”

“I also accept orders to make other things from bamboo, like mini equipment for my miniature houses.”

Em now intends to pass his skill on for free to other handicapped people or youngsters with an interest in the craft, in the hope of sharing his optimism with others.

“Everyone needs a profession that can bring them success with constant effort,” he said.

“Above all, having a career helps us lead a more positive life and dispel any notion of being a burden on the family and society.”



Woodwork wizard creates the ultimate toys

Woodwork wizard creates the ultimate toys

You would be hard-pressed to find an adolescent schoolboy anywhere in the world who doesn’t love fast cars.

Tradition winning out over tourism

Tradition winning out over tourism

Hoi An local Vo Tan Tan and his craftsmen created the Taboo Bamboo Workshop in the middle of the Cam Thanh nipa palm forest as a sustainable bamboo craft and preservation centre in the ancient town in central Vietnam.


Credit package for social housing not as productive as hoped

Few have benefited from the VND15 trillion credit package for social housing as there is a limited supply of low-cost homes.


More effective tax collection of e-commerce necessary


Cultural industry to contribute 10% of Hanoi’s GRDP by 2045

Authority warns of scam South Korea labour export programmes

The Department of Overseas Labour under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs have warned about scams targeting people who want to work in technical occupations in South Korea.

Textile firms call for favourable policies amid pessimistic prospects

With a pessimistic outlook for the second half of 2022, textile firms are calling for favourable governmental policies to turn their situation around.

Enterprises ignoring waste management to face penalty

Enterprises that are required to manage their waste and have yet to fulfill their payment obligations will be inspected, with a possible fine of up to VND2 billion for violations.

Favorable conditions pledged for Qatar’s funds, enterprises

Competent Vietnamese agencies are willing to create favorable conditions for Qatar’s investment funds and enterprises to seek investment opportunities in the country.

Woman posing for Tiktok video at Phu Quoc airport banned from flying for six months

The head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam Dinh Viet Thang has decided to issue a flight ban on a woman posing for a TikTok video at the Phu Quoc Airport tarmac for six months.

“1,000 public employees quitting jobs each month is inaccurate data”: HCM City

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Home Affairs says the information that 6,177 public employees quit their jobs in the first half of 2022 is incorrect. These are actually statistics from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022.

Gov't sets up six working groups to inspect disbursement of public investment capital

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has tasked six working groups to inspect disbursement of public investment capital in 41 ministries, state agencies and 18 localities where disbursement is below the national average rate of 34.47 percent as of July 31.

Vietnam to mobilise $360 billion for sustainable development targets

Vietnam needs to mobilise $360 billion for implementing its green and sustainable development targets by 2030.

Vietnam to make Apple Watch, MacBook for first time

Apple is in talks to make Apple Watches and MacBooks in Vietnam for the first time as the US tech giant looks to diversify production away from China, Nikkei Asia reported.

Japanese firm buys 35.1% stake at Vietnam’s power company

JERA Inc., a power generation company of Japan, has signed a deal to buy a 35.1% stake at Vietnam’s Gia Lai Electricity JSC (GEC) to tap the Southeast Asian nation's growing demand for electricity and further its own decarbonisation efforts.

Goalkeeper Dang Van Lam officially signs contract with Binh Dinh

Goalkeeper Dang Van Lam has signed a three-year contract with Binh Dinh FC and is expected to play his first match for his new team in the V.League 1 this weekend.

Vietnam faces shortage of Protamine sulfate

The Drug Administration of Vietnam (DAV) has sent a letter to provincial and municipal departments of health, hospitals and drug importers, asking them to supply information on stocks of Protamine sulfate.