Gold mask therapy costs VND2 million (USD96) in Vietnam
Among the ways of proving their status, many people have taken to eating bizarre foods, such as monkey brain, snake fetuses and eagle eyes, as well as using beauty techniques involving precious metals and gems.
Exorbitant pass times
According to Egyptian legend, Cleopatra would cover her face with a gold mask each night to maintain her peerless beauty. These days, in Vietnam, many people have begun to use the same practice.
The face mask, in modern-day Vietnam, consists of 24-karat gold and gamma PGA, an old Japanese soy-based product. While this therapy regularly costs upwards of USD500 in the rest of the world, it can be got for just VND2 million (USD96) in Vietnam. More than 20 leaves of gold are required to cover the entire face.
Pearls are also used for beauty care. While this luxury was only afforded to royal courtesans during the Chinese imperial period, more and more Vietnamese are able to afford it in the modern day. And they apparently think that the price of millions of VND is worth it.
Another practice becoming more common is a back massage with diamonds, which costs USD20,000 for a 90 minute session.
The eating habits of the newly wealthy have also taken a weird twist. There has been much buzz lately in Hanoi about Kobe beef noodles, which can cost around VND700,000-VND800,000 (USD33.54-USD38.33) per bowl.
Rua vang or gold turtle
Some well-to-do people in Vietnam are willing to spend USD2,500 on a rua vang or golden turtle as a method of gaining 'vitality'.
Meanwhile, some others opt to pay millions of VND for food made with 24-karat gold leaves; wine blended with gold leaves worth VND2 million to VND7 million (USD95.83-USD335.4), or moon cakes containing gold priced between VND2 million and VND3 million (USD95.83-USD143.74). These people believe that such foods help provide them minerals and better their health. Nutritionists, on the other hand, say that the body is not able to absorb these metals.
Several restaurants designed especially for such rich tastes have sprouted up all around Hanoi. These facilities serve dishes such as soup made with swallow's nests with shark fin, crab roe or abalone from South Africa or Mexico.
Other foods gaining in popularity, and price, are large lobsters, sometimes weighing in the kilos, and rice porridge made with a certain type of snail shipped in from Canada. Prices for these can fluctuate from VND20 million (USD958.31) to hundreds of million of VND.
Such eating habits are increasing as the gap between rich and poor grows larger.