The Cochinchine region (former name of southern Vietnam) in the French colonial period was very prosperous due to the boom in agricultural economics. In Bạc Liêu at that time, the number of landlords held 2% of the population. However, their possessions including private farming lands seized 95% of Bạc Liêu province. Therefore, this period had given birth to the lavish spending lifestyle of many sons of money-bags landlords.
During the 1900s, a few profligate sons living in Bac Lieu were notorious for spending money limitlessly. The term “Công Tử Bạc Liêu”, indeed, referred to this specific type of “rich” guys. The most well-known “Công Tử Bạc Liêu” was Trần Trinh Huy (1900-1973).
The Father Built
The Trần Trinh family had their fortune built by Trần Trinh Trạch (1872-1949), who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Nevertheless, he was fortunate enough to go to French schools as a replacement for a son of a rich family he worked for. After graduated, the lucky scholar was a secretary at Bạc Liêu mayor house and was then admired by Sir Phan Văn Bì – a wealthy landlord. Sir Bi married his fourth daughter to Mr.Trach and gave the couple a large number of farming lands in Bạc Liêu. Mr.Trach quitted his job as a secretary to manage the landlord business of Sir Bi.
Mr.Trach had a good sense of business. Not only he developed the landlord business for his father-in-law, but also dictated the salt market over the Cochinchine region. Later on, Mr.Trach began doing real estate. He had several buildings in Bạc Liêu as well as Saigon. However, the man wouldn’t be satisfied with his success, he switched to banking enterprise and became the co-founder of Vietnam National Bank (1927).
Despite being a trillionaire, Mr.Trach and his wife lived a simple life. They didn’t fancy luxurious things, but indeed, always saved money for investment.
The Son Destroyed
*The paradox of Mr. Trach
Tran Trinh Huy, the third child of 7 children of the family, was trusted as the ‘suitable heir’ for the fortune by his father. Hence, Mr.Trach invested the most money in Huy to study and take over the family business.
Of all the children in the family, Huy disposed to be clever. He treated people equally despite superior or lower classes. Huy was a generous guy. He gave money to whomever he felt like need help from him. Overall, it seemed like Mr.Trach had trusted the right child to inherit his legacies. But little that he knew Huy was a real spendthrift.
*The Black Prince of Bac Lieu
In 1926, Huy came back from Paris after 6 years of studying abroad with nothing but an aeroplane driver’s license, flirting girls, dancing and gambling skills. Back home, Huy began the life of a ‘cash burner’. With the limitless money source from his father, Huy could purchase anything he wanted in the world. He became the second person who owned a private jet, after King Bao Dai. People at that time had witnessed Huy driving his aeroplane just to watch over the family’s farming land property. Huy also liked to drive supercars around Saigon and dived in luxurious parties with champagnes (temporarily the fanciest drink). Huy also spent a vast amount of money on gambling and pursuing beauties.
*The Black Prince and the White Prince confrontation.
At that time, there was another ‘Huy’ named George Phuoc, who happened to be the rival against Huy. They were both competitive and extravagant spenders. People set their nicknames by their skin tones. George Phuoc was the White Prince and Huy was the Black Prince. They spent money against each other, mostly to win the girls that the other was dating. There were several anecdotes about the Black and White Princes. Here are the two most famous ones:
_ Once, George Phuoc invited Huy and one of his beauties to the theatre he owned to see a play. While they were watching, the beauty dropped a 5 Bạc note (let’s assume that it was a $5 note). George Phuoc immediately burned a $100 note to ‘make light’ for the beauty to find her money in front of Huy to impress the beauty as well as his rival.
_ Huy and George Phuoc were very eager to show their fortune and win over one another. They once held a competition in which both of them burnt money to maintain the fire to boil an egg. This anecdote wasn’t proven the accuracy for a long time. However, recently, a son of Huy has declared that it was a false rumour.
*The fallen of the wealthy family
After almost a century, the Trần Trinh family went corrupt under the destruction of Trần Trinh Huy. It is obvious to reckon the day Huy went from hero to zero. For such a great fortune Huy had inherited, it was a shame that he lead that mountain of wealth to completely fall into a black hole. At the end of his life, Huy suffered many diseases resulted from the former abundant lifestyle. On January 1973, Huy died in loneliness, leaving his descendants poverty-stricken, miserable and failure to redeem his debts. Huy has in total 3 official wives and 8 children. Otherwise, the Tran Trinh family also admitted children resulted from his affairs with many mistresses. The children sold the remaining of their father’s property and fleed everywhere and struggled to make ends meet. None of his children returned to Bạc Liêu except for Trần Trinh Đức, the third son of Huy. Đức struggled in debts of his gambling daughter and eventually returned to Bac Lieu in his 50s. He is now a tour guide in his former house “Nhà Công Tử Bạc Liêu” ( Huy’s former villa).
The tragedy of Công Tử Bạc Liêu has contributed to the southern Vietnamese people a lesson to educate their children to use their money wisely. If you have a chance to visit Bạc Liêu once, come to Công Tử Bạc Liêu‘s villa to witness his luxurious life. I hope you enjoy reading the story and don’t forget to register for our upcoming trip to Bạc Liêu.