HA NOI - Although he can't see the world around him, Bui Ngoc Thinh, 14, enjoys life thanks to musical instruments he uses to express happiness and sorrow. He calls them his friends.
While Thinh is blind, he's clever with music. Skillful fingers have enabled him to master the drum, flute, violin, guitar and organ.
The Viet Nam Records Book Centre has listed Thinh's ability. They sent the talented young man from the central province of Khanh Hoa a certificate stating that he was the youngest blind person in Asia to play a multitude of instruments.
Receiving the honour, he said: "As I'm a blind, I have very few friends. However, I don't feel sad because I have seven 'friends'. They are the musical instruments I can play." Thinh can now play 14 musical instruments.
But life was not always so relaxing. Thinh's father, Bui Van Loc, started to suffer bad headaches when he was at high school and began to lose his sight.
He joined the province's Ninh Hoa District Blind People's Association to talk with other people in the same situation. There, he met and fell in love with a blind girl named Le Thi Thu Thuy, who had a beautiful voice.
Six years later, they overcame their hesitation and decided to get married. When a baby was born, the blind couple were hopeful it would be able to act as their eyes.
Then, as Thinh learned to walk, his parents and relatives burst out crying when they saw him falling down time and again. They realised that their boy was also blind.
The family of three live in a room owned by the blind association and earn a small income making toothpicks, incense and straw brooms.
Once when he was three, Thinh was taken to a music performance held by the blind association. The world of music awoke inner passions in the child.
He often beat a pair of chopsticks together, forgetting that he was still hungry. Thinh had a chance to discover a range of instruments when his mother joined the association's singing group. He learned to beat drums at the age of six.
That year, he also won a prize on the Khanh Hoa Province Television for his singing. Thinh could play well after just a year of lessons and now has more than 100 songs in his repertoire.
The blind family was happy when Thinh and his father played music to accompany his mother's singing. Thinh often played so much that his fingers become swollen. He also had trouble managing with the size of some instruments. Thuy said that the guitar was initially bigger than her boy.
"I have no sight, but as a compensation, my ears and hands work well," Thinh said, "I feel the world with musical notes."
Now he can play about 300 songs with different musical instruments. This prompted the Nha Trang Culture Art and Tourism College to enroll him for further study.
Every day, beside practising music, Thinh also learns Braille and accumulates knowledge through the internet.