These poor creatures are caught, kept in very small plastic bags for hours and sold from the back of a motorbike. People who buy a fish will immediately set it free (back, actually) in pond, lake or river nearby – thereby bringing luck, success and wealth to their entire family.

Many of the fish are carps, one of the sacred animals in Vietnamese (and Chinese) mythology. According to tradition, a carp can transform into a dragon and fly into the sky, if it passes the so-called ‘Dragon gate’ – a high waterfall on the Yellow River in Hunan, China. And a dragon is something you want to be(come), because it has the power to control water, rain, floods and typhoons. Quite useful I’d say.

The tale tells the story of persistent carps on the path to success, making them a symbol of properity. Not really sure how even the most persistent carps will make it from a Ho Chi Minh City pond to the Yellow River – but I like the thought. (still feel sorry for the fish though)