Thanh Nien newspaper went undercover to consult a “fengshui master” working as a shill for an unlicensed Ho Chi Minh City cosmetic surgeon.
Posing as a woman seeking advice on how to improve her luck at the woman's District 5 office, the Thanh Nien reporter was greeted by a young woman who introduced herself as the master’s assistant.
The assistant, whose called herself Diem, said that although her boss wasn't there, she could provide a consultation -- even to those seeking advice over the phone.
“All you only need to do is describe your face, then the master will know how to fix it,” said Diem. “She is such a professional [who] has been working [as a fengshui master] since she was 7.”
However, she did not call her master but seemed quite certain that the reporter should “get a nose job first.”
The young woman, who looked as though she was in her twenties, said that a VND12-million (US$566) nose job only took 30 minutes and patients could expect to resume normal work in just three days.
The following day, the Thanh Nien reporter returned to the office at 333 Tran Binh Trong Street and sat down with Chi, the “fengshui master.”
They heavyset, middle-aged woman's face bore signs of extensive cosmetic surgery.
“Come to see me, there is nothing to fear,” said Chi.
“I will guide you through the whole process. Get a nose job, you know, the nose is the center of the face’s fengshui. Fix the nose, then your face will no longer seem so big and your eyes will be prettier.”
While Chi rattled on about facial fengshui, Diem kept asking for a downpayment for the surgeon.
According to Diem, customers usually deposit between VND1 – 2 million each, then return the following Wednesday or Saturday to undergo the operation.
The reporter paid the deposit and came back on September 24, a Wednesday, to receive some “special medicine” before lying on a surgical bed.
An employee of the office showed her to another house, in a small alley next to the office.
Diem was already there with 10 other customers who were waiting their turn.
Each "patient" was given with a pouch of medicine, containing some anti-inflammatory pills and pain-killers.
Nobody had ever seen the doctor, or spoken with the surgeon until they were lying on the operating table. Even then, the consultation sounded more or less the same.
“Like the master said, you only need to ask the doctor to make your nose full, high, and long,” said Diem, who was greeting customers, giving advices, taking money, and handing out medicine.
Every customer in the room seemed to agree that Chi was such a talented fengshui master that “everything she said was totally true”.
Dozens of women had undergone operations based on her advice, they said.
“My face was already good-looking before coming here. But Chi said that it was not suitable [with my fate]. I was enlightened, I made a total fix. Since then I have followed her,” said Th., a frequent customer of Chi's.
“I swore to her that as long as the alterations proved successful, I would introduce more and more [people] to her.”
Chi, the "fengshui master" who advises many local women to undergo operations to "change their fate". Photo: Luong Ngoc
Another customer, whose operation had just finished, walked down to the ground floor and sat down on a bench to recover.
Diem gave the customer a piece of gauze to cover her eye and nose. Then Diem, now functioning as a sort of nurse, gave the patient the kind of cold hand towel typically handed out in local restaurants.
The patient applied it to her swollen nose.
The patient told others that she felt acute pain while the anesthesia was administered, but felt nothing afterward.
Diem continued asking a Thanh Nien reporter, seemingly the only hesitant person in the waiting room, to pay the rest of her fee, before going upstairs for a “fate-changing” operation.
At that time, an unexpected team of local officials, including inspectors from the municipal Health department, visited the office.
“Say that you all are here for massages, not a nose job or anything else, please,” Diem muttered under her breath.
“I had my nose done here for VND10 million,” a new customer later told the inspectors. “They gave me 2 pills to swallow before the operation, then anesthetized me. Then I closed my eyes. I have no idea what they did [to my nose], but it was all over very quickly.”
Those still waiting to submit to an operation were prevented from doing so by the inspectors. The bridges of their noses had already been marked up with ballpoint pens.
Doctor Nguyen Dinh Chien -- whose name and face only became known to his patients after the inspectors entered his office -- admitted that his operations were unlicensed.
“The inspection team forced him to stop all of his unlicensed work at the office,” said Bui Minh Trang, Head of the municipal Health department’s inspectors.
“The District 5 Health Department and the People’s Committees of wards 4 and 5 have to kept a close eye on this location. We will confiscate his equipment and summon Doctor Chien for a thorough investigation,” added Trang.