A nouveau riche northern village is a picture of opulence

Created 28 January 2019
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A village in Nam Dinh has struck gold with ships, enjoying a per capita income 2.5 times higher than Hanoi.
A Rolls Royce stands in front of a private house of grandiose proportions in Phu An Village. Photo by VnExpress/Trong Nghia.

Phu An can lay a claim to being a village like no other in Vietnam.

It is only two kilometers long, but it is densely packed with high-rise buildings and head-turning mansions, instead of the traditional homes typically found in rural areas.

Most of the wealth of Phu An Village in Cat Thanh Commune, Nam Dinh Province, comes from villagers owning ships with capacities of 1,000 - 5,500 tons that are worth millions of dollars each.

Situated just 1.5 hours south of Hanoi, Phu An hosts more than 800 households with 2,500 residents in an area of four square kilometers. Eighty percent of the population here work in water transport, the rest are in farming and other fields.

According to the Cat Thanh Commune People's Committee, up to half of Phu An villagers have monthly incomes of over VND25 million ($1,077) , which is four times the average national income at VND6.5 million ($280). This income is 2.5 times that of Hanoi, according to the General Statistics Office's 2017 data. Vietnam's average GDP per capita in 2018 was around $2,500.

A Rolls Royce stands in front of a private house of grandiose proportions in Phu An Village. Photo by VnExpress/Trong Nghia.

A Rolls Royce stands in front of a private house of grandiose proportions in Phu An Village. Photo by VnExpress/Trong Nghia.

"The income of the people here is not less than big cities, although they only work within the village. Few people know that most of them were farmers before, standing all year-round deep in the mud of rice fields," said Do Van Doc, vice chairman of Cat Thanh Commune People's Committee.

Just a couple of decades or so ago, there was almost no major economic activity in the village. Villagers grew rice and fished in the river.

Then, all of a sudden, everything changed. In 1990, a water transport cooperative was dissolved and its members split the cash and assets. Thus, Phu An Village had its first 10 river vessels. Since then, the river and sea transport profession began flourishing.

At the beginning, there were only ships carrying agricultural and construction materials, the like. In 2009, a huge demand for transporting goods rose, and some households in the village decided to invest in the shipping industry, building ships with larger capacity.

To date, there are about 300 container ships specializing on the Hai Phong - Quang Ninh sea route in northern Vietnam.

"In 2010, three residents in Phu An Village invested in building large transport ships with capacity of up to 5,500 tons to participate in the transnational shipping market," Doc said.

Doc said that after starting with one to two ships, Tran Van Dinh, a village resident, now owns a fleet of 30 or so vessels. Tran Van Thach, another resident , has a fleet of 15 ships. About ten households have 3 - 4 ships providing both river and sea transportation services.

It is estimated that Phu An's shipping profession creates regular jobs for about 1,500 people.

Mansions worth millions of dollars are a common sight in Phu An Village. Photo by VnExpress/Trong Nghia.

Mansions worth millions of dollars are a common sight in Phu An Village. Photo by VnExpress/Trong Nghia.

Because most people have to go to sea for work, the village is often deserted. The pace of life here does not resemble busier neighboring villages.

"Here, a wedding with hundreds of guests is normal, because the people here are socially well connected. On cold days, they send private cars to pick up their guests from elsewhere, sometimes up to several hundred vehicles are used.

"However, I think it is not exceptional wealth that is being portrayed, but the fact that life here is fuller than other villages," said Tran Van Tiep, head of Phu Tho hamlet in Phu An.

Tiep said most villagers, including farmers, have enough money to spend at least VND5 million ($215) per month for family insurance. Although they have a lot of money, they do not escape to big cities, but bring money to their hometown to build houses, populating the small village with bigger and better houses.

While Phu An Village road is lined with mansions, it wears a deserted look because people rarely stay at home. Photo by VnExpress/Trong Nghia.

While Phu An Village road is lined with mansions, it wears a deserted look because people rarely stay at home. Photo by VnExpress/Trong Nghia.

All the residents of Phu An are Catholic. The parish council has a great influence, so everyone tends to live a good life and upholds his/her religious beliefs

Wealthy people support the Catholic fund, and the priest provides assistant to those from underprivileged backgrounds, including scholarships for children. In recent years, each poor household in the village gets a Tet, Lunar New Year Festival, allowance of VND5 million ($215).

In Hanoi, the Tet 2019 allowance for each individual in poor households is between VND300,000 and 2.5 million ($12.9 - 107). 

Do Van Kiem, 55, a Phu An resident, said: "The parish also helps people to improve themselves, giving advice on how to accumulate wealth, information on rice cultivation and consumption, so that people develop a sense of doing business while enhancing their spiritual lives."

The commune People's Committee estimates that after deducting all expenses, each ship transporting goods in rivers earns about VND100 million ($4,313) a month while a ship providing sea transportation earns five to six times this amount.

It is thus that the 800-household village has more than 400 houses worth hundreds of thousands of US dollars and about 10 villas have been modeled on European castles worth millions of US dollars.


Source: VNE

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