By Wang Di, Bui Long
HANOI, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- "Is it a robot or a car? How can a robot turn into a running car in the blink of an eye? Where is it from?" a Vietnamese little boy uninterruptedly asked his father and a nearby shopkeeper.
This year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, Vietnam's biggest annual festival for children who are given toys as presents, falls on Friday. But days before it, toy streets like Hang Ma and Luong Van Can in Vietnam's capital Hanoi have been dyed in colors of rainbow and sunken in the ocean of ear-pleasing sounds of toys, especially modern ones imported from China.
"Eight years ago when I opened this shop, parents often opted for simple toys such as masks and lanterns for their children. But in recent years, especially this year, modern toys, especially Chinese ones with eye-catching designs, diversified models and competitive prices, have sold very well," Ha Thi Huong, the owner of "Do Choi Thong Minh" (Smart Toys) shop on Hang Ma Street, told Xinhua on Thursday.
In the week before the Mid-Autumn Festival, the short-haired shopkeeper and her daughter were as busy as a bee opening boxes of Chinese toys, putting batteries in robots, cars or dolls to best demonstrate their functions in front of the curious eyes of children as well as their parents.
In Huong's shop, a little boy in a black T-shirt was gluing his eyes on a battery-powered robot-car toy, and his sister was gently touching a set of Chinese toys in the form of a doll in the toy house full of tiny furniture.
"My son is crazy for robots and cars, so we are looking for a toy which can run very fast as a car and can also immediately transform into a robot when bumping into obstacles," the boy's father Nguyen Hue, director of the Hue Anh Design and Construction Company in Hanoi, told Xinhua, pointing his hand to a Chinese robot-car toy with vivid color in the shop.
"I will make a beautiful costume for the doll, and also make a bed, a wardrobe and a dressing table for her, using the pieces in the box," Hue's nine-year-old daughter said in an excited voice, insisting on buying the set of toys which can also play music when a button is pressed.
Huong said her shop currently sells hundreds of kinds of toys, mostly shipped in containers from China, and three best-selling items are cars, robots and dolls full of movement, light and music, whose prices range from 100,000 Vietnamese dong (4.3 U.S. dollars) to 1 million Vietnamese dong (43 U.S. dollars).
"The price of a simple lantern is half dollar and just for fun. But with bigger purses and higher demand for aesthetics, durability and functionality, more and more parents and children are preferring complicated and creative toys to play and learn with them at the same time," the shopkeeper stated.
In a big toy store named "Bich An" on Luong Van Can Street, customers were also asking shop assistants to turn on either a princess doll that can dance and play popular music, a talking cat toy, a strolling dinosaur or a dancing robot.
"During Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas and Lunar New Year, many people come here to buy toys for children. Compared with battery-powered toys from Europe or North America, the Chinese ones are with the similar quality and far more reasonable prices. That's why parents often choose Chinese toys and why we import modern toys from there," said Mai Chi, a young shop assistant.
During Mid-Autumn Festival days, Chinese modern toy trading has been bustling not only on streets, but also on e-commerce platforms. Besides toys for recreational and educational purposes, items which both entertain players and improve their health have attracted many Vietnamese people.
"We are huge sports fans with a busy schedule and small room spaces. So we just bought our kids online a set of Chinese table tennis equipment which allows them to practice without the table," Hanoian reporter Nguyen Hao told Xinhua on Friday, noting that the table tennis ball is fixed on a flexible carbon fiber, so people can use rackets to play the game without a table in a narrow space.
Chinese modern toys are becoming hot items in Vietnam during the Mid-Autumn Festival as a result of deeper bilateral economic cooperation and higher living standards, and also due to cultural similarities between the two countries, according to local cultural experts and educators.
"As far as I know, for Chinese people, the round shape of the moon embodies family reunion and harmony, while in Vietnam, we also regard this festival as the most important one for kids," Hoang Vy, a lecturer of the Hanoi University of Business and Technology, told Xinhua on Friday when shopping toys online for her nephews.
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. In China and Vietnam, during the festival, especially at night, mooncakes, an indispensable delicacy of the annual event, are eaten while family members and friends gather in their houses or open-air venues, chatting or watching the moon.
"In both Vietnam and China, it is a time to share the best, both affection and materials, such as mooncakes and toys, with our beloved ones," said Vy.