For those of you (maybe .. Jayaxe? Bubblemunche?) who are thinking of getting a Vietnamese bride, please be careful... You might end up having Dick as your uncle... eeek!
Don't say i never warn you ok?
Oct 19, 2004
Four hours - and he finds a Viet bride
A BEVY of jeans-clad women, some still teenagers, stand shyly before the Singaporean stranger.
More young women arrive by the van-load at the empty restaurant in the city's Chinatown, hoping to catch the eye of 51-year-old accounts clerk Goh Ho Guan.
The bachelor makes them parade before him, and they do so awkwardly - more than four dozen in all, aged 19 to 30.
Clearly dazzled, he tells The Straits Times: 'There are so many for me to choose from! I also have a headache. I don't know how to choose.'
It was Day 2 of Mr Cupid International Matchmakers' Six Days, Five Nights Matchmaking Tour. The first day had been spent flying in from Singapore.
He paid $12,888 for the package, including a chance to pick a bride from among 3,500 women, hold a wedding banquet and return home a married man - all in under a week.
An increasing number of single men have been heading to Vietnam on matchmaking tours first started three years ago.
Most are Chinese-speaking blue-collar workers, aged 30 to 50, looking for a woman to care for them and start a family with.
Chinese men make up almost nine in 10 of the 67,000 bachelors in Singapore aged 35 to 49, according to the 2000 Census. There are another 11,236 aged 50 to 59.
Some had failed romances and feel Singaporean women are materialistic, demanding and too independent. Others, like Mr Goh, have never had a girlfriend.
'Singapore girls are very difficult,' is how he puts it.
Mr Mark Lin, who runs Sin Ye International Matchmaker, said that in Vietnam, these same men are 'kings' when it comes to choosing wives.
China brides were all the rage in the 1990s, until horror stories in the media about marriages which had gone sour.
More recently, the Vietnamese woman became the ideal of the good wife.
Contractor Ng Ban Soon, 35, found his wife on a matchmaking trip in August last year. He only married to stop his mother nagging him, he says, but now has no regrets.
'Generally, Vietnamese women are gentle, very obedient and have a good character,' he said in Mandarin.
His wife never says no if he wants home-cooked food, he says.
In the last two years, at least 10 agencies have sprung up to introduce men to Vietnamese women. Competition has led to a price war, with packages available for as little as $6,000, compared to $16,000 in 2001.
To beat the others, matchmaker Sin Ye now brings women in, so clients can choose brides in Singapore.
There are no official figures available, but the First Secretary of the Vietnamese Embassy estimates that more than 300 brides have arrived.
Mr Nguyen Dinh Nhi said: 'I see more Vietnamese women marrying Singapore men in the past few years. Many are village girls who are not well-educated.'
Back in the 1990s, Mr Cupid's staff would scour the Vietnamese countryside, looking for women keen to marry foreigners. Now, the women seek out the agency, which selects 'only pure and obedient girls', says director of operations Mark Wong.
Women like 22-year-old farmer's daughter Quach Thi Lan. When asked what kind of husband she dreams of, she replied: 'If a man chooses me, I don't think I will have any objection.'
The youngest of five children, her family earns about US$800 (S$1,350) a year growing rice, and home is an attap house with no toilet, TV or telephone. If a foreign man picks her, the dowry may let her family buy more land, or feed them for at least a year.
'Planting rice is back-breaking work. I want a chance to go abroad, to see new places and to know more things,' Miss Lan said.
Until her bridegroom appears, she works in one of Mr Cupid's factories, which produce goods from clothing to plastic products for export.
The company provides the women with lodging, jobs and, most importantly, the chance to meet foreign men.
Mr Goh's mission was accomplished swiftly - he found his bride on Day 2, after taking under four hours to interview more than 50 women.
All of them had been shown his photograph and knew his age and occupation, that he did not smoke, gamble or drink alcohol, and that his hobby was collecting stamps.
He settled on Miss Nguyen Thi Kuen Linh, 26, a farmer's daughter and one of eight children, who left her village 170km south-west of the city in late May.
Now she had to have her virginity check, even though she said she had never had a boyfriend. Mr Goh came back from the doctor's clinic grinning widely.
They were engaged that day and married the next.
The wedding was held at a restaurant with two tables of guests - the bride's family and some relatives who travelled overnight to be there. Mr Goh had no family present.
The bride's mother, 58-year-old Tran Thi Nen, confessed to being worried. She had no idea where Singapore was.
During the four days the couple spent in Ho Chi Minh City, the new Mrs Goh served her husband his food and attended to his every need before starting to eat herself.
The language barrier did not bother them. There was a lot of smiling shyly and holding hands, though.
When asked about their 25-year age gap, she said: 'I never think about our age difference. I don't feel uneasy about it. In Vietnam, we don't date before marriage. We slowly learn to love the man we marry.'
On Day 6, Mr Goh flew home. His new wife got her travel papers in order and joined him a month later, her first trip out of Vietnam.
Now, two months later, she is settled in their Marsiling flat, a world away from her family's fruit farm, and looks forward to weekend outings with her husband to shop and visit attractions.
She speaks a little Mandarin and although she pines for home, says she is happy. 'My husband pampers me and living here is much more comfortable,' she said.
Clearly pleased that he made that trip, Mr Goh said: 'I'm not so lonely now. I have no complaints about married life. It's much better than being single.'