Huyền Chip, a 21-year-old female backpacker who claims to have traveled through 25 countries and has so far written two books about it, is in the midst of a storm when readers doubt the honesty of what she wrote.
In the books, she penned that she visited 25 countries on an initial budget of just US$700 and that she would earn money to cover lodging and food along the way.
It sounds all too easy.
Suddenly finding a job in a strange land with a strange culture and language is a piece of cake.
If she actually managed to nail this, I would be the first to salute her.
One inconsistency is the part where she wrote she sustained a fracture in the fibula but just three weeks later could travel as good as new again.
When confronted, she denied that she ever wrote such thing.
However, she later admitted she did write it and explained:
“Every one has their own speed of recovery”.
Sounds conflicting and not so honest to me.
The Department of Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery of the National Hospital of Burns told a certain online news site that the time to heal a fibula fracture takes at least two months.
A press conference in Hồ Chí Minh City to present Huyền Chip’s new book
The two books are presented in the form of a travel diary, not novels, and as such readers expect to read the true events.
If they were made up, it would be extremely dangerous for many of her fans who followed her ‘travel tips’ and thought adventure travel was just a bed of roses.
To prove the truth is simple.
Just invite a famous journalist or respected figure to check her visas and she would be cleared of all charges and there would be higher demand for the books.
In Hà Nội, she slightly fell short of that and did let a famous professor inspect her passport.
However, she refused to let journalists take photos.
The professor, after cursorily turning over the passport pages, did not conclude how many countries she has been to.
So doubt still lingers.
It was much worse at a recent press conference in Hồ Chí Minh City.
There, Huyền Chip refused to show everyone including readers and reporters her visas.
This must have been a blow to the journalists who are normally allowed unobstructed access to the materials they cover.
Even the police have to provide details when working with reporters.
But now a young girl challenged that.
If she wrote on her blog, no one would care but this is a published book and so both readers and reporters have a right to know the truth.
Holding the passport in her hands, she shockingly announced that she doesn’t like to show the visas.
What’s the point in bringing a piece of evidence to the press conference only to refuse to show it to the press?
It is kind of defying for me.
A writer, when suspected of fraud, should have tried one’s best to defend himself/herself.
But here, she bluntly answered:
“This is my visas but I don’t like to show them to you.”
“I am not responsible for answering your question.”
This is a disaster.
The girl is too young and rude to all.
Partly, she is right.
She is not responsible for proving what she wrote is correct but the publishing house is.
The publishing house [Văn học Publishing House], as the producer of the books, is legally responsible for clarifying customers’ queries on the authenticity of the book contents.
It is like with all other products.
The producer is legally bound to provide customers with adequate and non-misleading information.
This is written in the law in almost all countries, Việt Nam included.
Suppose I buy a Rolex watch, then just a short time later the case starts to peel.
If I complain to the company/seller, they have a legal responsibility to offer explanations or I can sue.
The workers and technicians who directly worked on the watch (i.e Huyền Chip) are not responsible for my queries but the watch-making company (i.e the publishing house) is accountable regarding its origin and authenticity.
The publisher has so far remained silent.
Then, there are many aspects of the book I think would negatively influence the youth like when the girl impersonated an Indian to get cheaper ticket to the Taj Mahal.
In Myanmar, she entered an old pagoda site without paying the entrance fee.
In Egypt she faked a card to enter a press conference…
All such acts are dishonest at best and illegal by nature (even working for money on a tourism visa is against the law and can lead to deportation).
But she wrote it with pride and the publishing house published it with pride.
If her new book is widely promoted, it could foster a bad image of the Vietnamese in the eyes of foreigners.
I personally would not recommend her books to anyone and travel should be done in a safe and legal way.
By JOE T. PHẠM (*)
(*) Joe T. Phạm is a self-employed Vietnamese-American living in Hồ Chí Minh City