A middle-aged couple has spent over four decades coming to the rescue of drivers meeting with road accidents along one of Vietnam’s most famous mountain passes.
Dang Thi Vang sells drinks while her husband, Pham Dang, is a vehicle repairman at a hut-like shop on Hai Van Pass, a coastal road with stunning views that runs through the border of Da Nang City and Thua Thien-Hue Province in central Vietnam.
This is also the place where the couple has helped injured people in accidents since they began choosing the livelihood here in 1975.
In the early days, crashes of various degrees of seriousness occurred nearly on a daily basis on the 20-kilometer-long hill pass, which had a large volume of traffic then.
Vang sold drinks at a makeshift hut on the route together with other women as her husband pedaled up and down the hill finding troubled motorbikes and bicycles to fix.
Vang and Dang can hardly remember all accidents whose victims they helped.
But they are strongly impressed by a crash that happened before Hai Van Tunnel, Vietnam’s longest vehicle passage, was completed in 2005 to smooth car and truck traffic flow on the pass, for the wife and husband got into a quarrel after their rescue efforts.
They were amongst the first to arrive at the scene where a driver was bleeding in his truck after it careened out of the roadway and down a cliff.
After the couple removed the bleeding driver from the vehicle, Vang brought him to the hospital on a passenger bus she had hailed, she recalled.
As doctors could find neither money nor personal papers on the driver, the woman told a lie that she was the victim’s relative so that admission paperwork could be done.
Vang then had to sell some gold jewelry she was wearing in exchange for the money to cover his medical treatment costs, she said.
When she came home, a short argument arose as her husband wanted the money to be used to purchase their children’s textbooks instead of helping a stranger.
“If the driver died or he did not pay back, how would we pay them through this new school year?” Vang recalled the husband shouting at the time.
|Dang Thi Vang (foreground) peels a pineapple at her shop on Hai Van Pass in central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The wife remembered responding that she could not do otherwise. “If he was our relative in trouble, do you think I should do it?” she asked after the man had calmed down.
In 2012, the couple used government financial aid to build a small beverage and fruit shop named View at a spot with a beautiful view along Hai Van Pass.
The shop, actually looking like a tent, is visited by multiple patrons, including foreign ones who were surprised by Vang’s ability to speak English, French, Chinese and Korean.
“I’ve worked here for 30 years and good luck has smiled on our family,” she said, implying the opportunity her daughter got to study for a master’s degree in the United States.
“One of my children is a college student, and another is a security guard. I’m happy that they’re all polite and grateful to us,” Vang said.
Her husband now fixes vehicles right at the shop, without having to move along the pass as he used to.
They always have a first-aid kit at the shop, ready to give treatment to anyone getting involved in a road accident.
Vang and her husband believe they should be grateful to the pass that they rely on for a living by doing something useful to people using it.