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[Video] Saigon's 'Guardian Angel' Lives in a Hẻm in Phu Nhuan

Unbeknownst to many Saigoneers, their home city has a “guardian angel,” or at least that’s how residents in a neighborhood in Phu Nhuan District refer to Do Van Ut, a local xe ôm driver.

While born Do Van Ut, he’s better known in the area as Viet, or by his moniker, ông Tiên. The term means “guardian angel” in Vietnamese, referring to the many charitable acts he has performed for those in need.

Viet’s day job is transporting customers around the Phu Nhuan Market area on his motorbike, but he’s also quite the Renaissance man. When Viet is not giving rides, he tends to a free trà đá cooler, public medical cabinet, and small bike repair station right on Phan Dinh Phung Street, in front of a hẻm.

“I used to experience a period of hardship after an accident. We had to sell our house to pay the medical bills,” he told Zing in Vietnamese in an interview. “A while ago, I was bedridden for almost a year, lying on the pavement next to the bike repair station. Therefore, I understand the challenges of being poor.”

At the moment, Viet is living with his wife in a tiny home deep in the alley. Their house is small, but filled with tools and water bottles – the main requirements for his “side jobs.” His wife, who has been supportive of his charitable endeavors, helps him boil the water for the iced tea cooler. During summer months, the electricity bill for the instant kettle can reach as high as VND700,000.

In addition to the trà đá cooler and bike repair service, his altruism extends to those that are sick and even dead. The medical cabinet Viet maintains contains cures for all common ailments, from simple coughs to wounds caused by street accidents. A few years ago, Viet sought out some coffin makers to ask if they would donate their services. Few could say no to the earnest man. Now, for those that can’t afford a proper funeral service for their loved ones, or homeless souls who pass away on the street, Viet ensures that they get the final respect they deserve.

Since Viet set up his charity services in front of the alley, hẻm 96 on Phan Dinh Phung Street has taken on the name Hem Ong Tien (the alley of the guardian angel).

Saigoneer recently had a chance to sit down to listen to Do Van Ut’s story. Learn the story of Phu Nhuan’s Hem Ong Tien through the video below:


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