A young Vietnamese young woman’s book about a trip to 25 countries caused skepticism among many readers.
The writer, Nguyen Thi Khanh Huyen or Huyen Chip, held a press conference to introduce the book at L’espace in Hanoi, attracting the participation of many people who came there to question her.
The book entitled Đừng chết ở Châu Phi, which can be literally translated as “Don’t die in Africa”, is the second part of her work, Xách ba lô lên và đi or “Pack your bag and Go”, which includes her diary during the journey to 25 countries around the world on a budget of USD700. According to her book, she had to do part-time jobs along the way. However many wondered about the book’s veracity.
Many questions about the book were raised at the conference, some of which clearly upset the 23-year old woman, causing Prof. Nguyen Lan Dung and Associate. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Hong Anh, Director of Asia-Pacific Centre and lecturer of Hanoi University of Foreign Trade to try to ease the tension.
Many readers asked questions about whether Huyen really went to 25 nations, as she wrote in her book, bringing up visa problems that would make it seem infeasible. They also doubted that she could make this trip on such a low budget.
The writer said that it is quite difficult to get visas from developed countries, but that it is not the same case for African countries and she did not have to prove her financial capacity in those nations. She said she could easily buy a visa at borders. After being denied for a visa to South Africa three times she was forced to return to Vietnam. She also explained that the sum of USD700 was just the initial amount of her trip, and that, “I had to earn extra money along the way.”
Some readers questioned her about how she could have found part-time jobs at these countries, while she did not know their native languages.
Huyen said that in some countries, she had to spend time and effort to look for a part-time jobs. She had to come to dozens of shops per day to find a job which would often pay as little as USD5 per day.
Even experts face opposition
Huyen acknowledged her illegal border crossings, but stood by the fact that the book is compiled of personal experiences.
At the conference, Professor Nguyen Lan Dung said he believed in what Huyen wrote and introduced the book on his blog. “I must say that Huyen Chip is quite adept at overcoming difficulties and challenges. I feel quite unhappy that the book about true events and a real person has become the topic of debate.”
Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyen Hong Anh said, “Huyen Chip is not responsible to anyone. John Lennon can’t be blamed for young people’s drug use just as the writer Daniel Defoe can’t be blamed for people who give up their houses just because he wrote Robison.”
The comparison was met by strong opposition by some participants who emphasised that they would not have raised question if Huyen Chip had not written than her experiences were fictionalised. The debate was so heated that there were many people who wanted to ask a question but were not allowed to due to time restrictions.
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