Last update 12/11/2011 3:00:31 PM (GMT+7)

Korean and Vietnamese speaking contest launched in HCM City

The contest has provided Vietnamese people an opportunity to show their Korean speaking skills as well as giving a chance for students from the Republic of Korea (RoK) to speak Vietnamese friends’ mother tongue.

The final round of the competition was held in Ho Chi Minh City on December 10 with 25 Vietnamese and Korean contestants selected from 564 entries in the previous rounds.

Nguyen Phuong Y, a Vietnamese student from the HCM City University of Social Science and Humanity, won the first prize in Korean speaking. She was offered a free-of-charge course for master degree at Soongsil University in the RoK.

In the Vietnamese speaking category, Jang Eun Bee, who is studying at the Hanoi University, took the lead with an award worth US$2,000.

The contest created an excellent venue for students from both countries to meet, exchange and increase mutual standing, as well as strengthening bilateral friendship.

Body builder’s photo collection raises speculations

A glitzy photo collection featuring body builder champion Pham Van Mach has been released on the Internet, stirring up rumors that he would try his luck in showbiz.

In the pictures, Mach showed off his muscular upper body in flamboyant outfits with heavy accessories and theatrical poses.

Though Mach is an accomplished bodybuilder with many regional and international championships, it was only until he took part in the singing contest “Just the two of us” this October did he really grab public attention.

Mach was eliminated early in the show but made headlines with his impressive singing ability. He himself has told the press that he would consider a musical career.

Fans said the photo collection proved that Mach was serious about this idea. Many, however, prefer his former simple and earthy image as a bodybuilder.

Tue Anh, a reader of Tuoi Tre Newspaper, wrote that his fast-changing style had surprised many fans.

A netizen named Quyen commented in an article about Mach on Yahoo news page that Mach should keep his simple and sporty style, even if he was considering being a singer.

“He shouldn’t listen too much to all the praises people are heaping on him,” Quyen said. “If he is serious about his singing, he should focus more improving his skills and knowledge than his appearance.”

Le Cong, another commenter, said he loved Mach as a bodybuilder, not a singer.

Newspapers like Thanh Nien opined that Mach seemed to hurriedly jump at the chance to gain more popularity despite what he has already achieved throughout his sport career.

Mach himself said somewhat bitterly on the “Just the two of us” stage that “a decade of following bodybuilding hasn’t brought me as much fame as a few weeks joining this show.”

In mid-November, Mach put on 5-kg and was thus forced to compete at the 60-kg category instead of his usual 55-kg at the 2011 World Bodybuilding Championship held in Malaysia.

He finished last at the event and was heavily criticized for paying too much attention to the show.

Mach has yet to give any official interview about his future plan, although on Thursday, he made a debut appearance as a singer in “Am nhac thoi dai”, a live concert featuring many professional artists such as Phuong Thanh or Minh Hang.

He will also star in “Hello co Ba”, a film by Phuoc Sang studio which will be released in mid-January.

HCMC parents book Santa Claus in advance this year

Although Christmas is still two weeks away, Ho Chi Minh City residents have started buying gifts and registering for delivery services, featuring a house visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, giving presents and greeting lucky recipients with seasonal good tidings.

Thanh, who lives in District 10, said she started researching this “Santa Claus” service in early December. Since demand is high, the staff at the company providing the service can take time to consult customers, and the price not too expensive, even if you book on the last days before Christmas. Thanh could also choose a convenient time: 7pm on the night of December 24, when Santa Claus will come and give gifts to her daughter.

On streets like Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Nguyen Tri Phuong, 3 Thang 2 and Cao Thang, many shops have put up signs saying they will deliver Christmas presents, in some cases even if the gifts aren’t purchased at their shop.

Nga, the owner of ViVi souvenir shop on District 10’s 3/2 street, said her shop has cooperated with Jingle Bells, a delivery company, this holiday season. Customers who buy stuffed animals and toys at the shop will have Santa Claus deliver the gifts for them to their beloved ones.

“After December 20, our shop will stop taking orders. Customers have to contact the delivery company directly because from then on, we will have a lot of customers and staff can only focus on sales,” said Nga.

This year, delivery fees are 5-15 percent higher than last year. If the addresses are in the city center, it costs around VND50,000 (US$2.5), and will go up to VND70,000 ($3.5) on December 22 and 23, and VND80,000 ($4) on December 24 and 25. To have the gift delivered after 4pm, an additional charge of VND20,000 ($1) is added. Those who agree to have presents delivered after Christmas will receive a discount of VND50,000 ($2.5).

Besides offering services such as Santa Claus coming to each house, giving gifts, and saying greetings, shops in the city also compete with each other by including a CD of Christmas carols and fairy tales in the presents.

“Currently, many customers have signed up for other services like Santa Claus telling stories and singing for kids rather than just arriving and quickly saying a few greetings,” said Manh, the owner of a toyshop in District 5.

After recruiting a team of Santa Clauses from students in the city’s universities, Hanh, the owner of Tino souvenir shop in District 3, pledged to customers that they will not deliver later than 30 minutes after the requested time. She said that in previous years, due to traffic congestion, some Santa Clauses came one, two, or even three hours late, when some children had already gone to bed.

This year, the shop hopes to avoid an overload of orders to make sure they can deliver on time. However, they will also raise the service fee by 15 percent.

“I advised customers to have their presents delivered before Christmas, but only few agreed. Most of them want Santa Claus to come on the right date, even though they have to pay a higher price,” she said.

Want portrait photos for free? Join HCMC event

Around 350 photographers in Ho Chi Minh City will join in an annual event in which they volunteer to shoot portraits of people and deliver to them for free on December 10.

Titled “Help portrait”, the event sponsored by the Japanese multinational camera maker Canon is expected to give around 2,000 free photos to people from all walks of life.

Formed by renowned American celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart in 2009, “Help-Portrait” is a non-profit event gathering volunteer photographers across the world to use their photography skills to give back to their local community.

The event has so far attracted 10,574 photographers at 1,062 locations in 54 countries and given away 101,596 portraits.

This year’s “Help Portrait” in Vietnam will take place at District 1’s Hoa Binh Primary School, Notre Dame Cathedral and 30/4 Park from 7:30am to 5pm.

In 2010, the event was organized in Vietnam for the first time and gathered 70 photographers.

More information can be found at

Exhibition features snapshots of kids worldwide

An exhibition featuring photos of children around the world taken by French photographer Yan Lerval has just been opened in Ho Chi Minh City.

Titled "Terre de Regards" (Views of Earth), the exhibition showcases the 42-year-old artist’s works taken on his trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, the Himalayan region, Europe and Africa last year.

The freelance photographer from Montpellier told Tuoi Tre Newspaper he had been shooting for 15 years and captured 30,000 pictures about children.

Lerval first came to Vietnam in 2001 and is temporarily based in HCMC. He plans to publish a book titled "Tour du Monde des Enfants" (Children around the World) early next year.

The exhibition is taking place at Idecaf at 28 Le Thanh Ton Street in District 1 and will run until December 17.

Vietnam Film Festival’s free screening wraps up

The free screening of 17 movies taking part in the 17th Vietnam Film Festival to be held next week in Phu Yen Province concluded Thursday in Hanoi.

A considerable number of audiences showed up to see Vietnam’s best movies in the past 2 years. These include Huu Muoi’s “Mui co chay” (The Smell of Burnt Grass), which is based on Vietnam’s best-selling war diary “Mai mai tuoi 20” (Forever 20) by American War veteran Nguyen Van Thac.

The premier of this movie, which is a moving story of four young Hanoi men who fought in the bloody 81-day Quang Tri Old Citadel battle during the American War, attracted over 200 audience members who stayed until the last minute.

Nguyen Manh Cuong, PR Manager of the National Cinema Center which screened the entries, said this number was remarkable considering the screening room has only 170 seats.

“Tam hon me” (A mother’s soul) by Pham Nhue Giang was another hit. This movie, which was adapted from Nguyen Huy Thiep’s short story, has garnered much attention from local media recently.

Manh, a student from Hanoi Foreign Trade University, who saw “Nhung buc thu tu Son My” (Letters from Son My), another war entry, said he enjoyed watching contemporary Vietnamese war movies although they were unable to beat Hollywood films.

Nga, a student of Hanoi Foreign Language University, said she enjoyed watching Vietnamese movies because they “tell our own stories in our own language.” “It is more interesting to see a bit of ourselves in these movies than watching Korean or American films,” she said.

According to Cuong, other entries such as “Canh dong bat tan” (Floating Lives) or “Hot boy noi loan” (Lost in Paradise) also attracted a lot of audiences.

Films like “Hoa Dao” (Cherry blossom) or “Nhin ra bien ca” (Toward the Sea) which were produced by state-owned film studios had the lowest numbers of audiences.

“These studios did not have any marketing plan to promote their films, which hadn’t been screened commercially in nationwide cinemas,” Cuong explained.

National Young Fine Arts Festival concludes

Seventeen prizes were awarded to young artists at the 2011 National Young Fine Arts Festival, which wrapped up in Hanoi yesterday.

Le Tran Hau Anh from Hanoi won first prize for his video entitled ‘Trai Dat Xanh’ (Green Planet). Two second prizes went to Nguyen Quang Vinh from Hanoi for his graphic work ‘Cuoc Song Du Hoc’ (Study Abroad Life) and Tran Tuan Nghia, from Ho Chi Minh City, for the sculpture ‘Tai Tao’ (Regeneration).

The art festival at the Vietnam Culture and Arts Exhibition Centre in Hanoi, organised by the Department of Fine Arts, Photography and Exhibitions under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, attracted the participation of 137 young artists from across the country who displayed 155 artworks in various media, including installations, video, performance, sculpture, graphics and painting, during the festival.

The event was a good opportunity for young artists to express their creativity and show works that reflected their views of contemporary life.

Writers Association celebrates anniversary

Writers in HCM City in the last three decades have produced many works embraced by readers nationwide, speakers said at a seminar marking the 30th founding anniversary of the HCM City Writers’ Association on Wednesday.

Writers Nguyen Nhat Anh, Do Trung Quan and Nguyen Dong Thuc, for example, in the late 1980s wrote popular works about young people and their life.

In recent years, Anh has won several literary prizes presented by the Viet Nam Writers Association and the city’s writers’ association.

His story Cho Toi Mot Chiec Ve Di Tuoi Tho (Give Me A Ticket Back to Childhood) won the ASEAN Literary Award in 2010.

Works like Canh Dong Hoang (Wild Field) by writer Nguyen Quang Sang and Van Bai Lat Ngua (Showdown) by Nguyen Truong Thien Ly have been turned into well-known films and dramas welcomed by audiences.

Both works praised Vietnamese soldiers’ fighting spirit, and helped to bolster the spirits of the population in the war for national liberation.

Participants at the seminar said the city’s writers had contributed significantly to the literary tradition of the country in recent years.

However, many writers in HCM City had not been writing much about current social changes in the city, according to Le Van Thao, former chairman of the city’s writers association.

“The association needs to increase the number of creative literary workshops for young writers. One or two workshops a year are not enough”, Thao said.

The association has 500 members, more than three times the number when it was founded in 1981.

Prizes for poster contest announced

An awards ceremony was held yesterday in Hanoi to announce the winner of the propaganda poster contest to mark the 65th anniversary of the National Resistance War (December 19, 1946).

Fourteen posters were given awards including two second prizes, two third prizes and ten consolation prizes. The two second prizes went to Nguyen Huynh Mai from Hanoi for the poster entitled ‘Hanoi - A City for Peace’ and Luu Yen The, also from Hanoi, for ‘Promoting the Spirit of the National Resistance War’.

The contest was sponsored by the Grassroots Culture Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Within two months, the contest's organisers received 580 entries by 336 painters from 32 cities and provinces across the country.

Exhibition marks 25 years of renovation in Vietnam

Over 200 documents and artifacts related to the past 25 years of Vietnam’s development are currently on display at an exhibition, which opened yesterday at the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi to mark the 25th anniversary of doi moi (renovation) in Vietnam.

‘Vietnam – 25 Years of Renovation (1986-2011)’ presents the great changes that have taken place in Vietnam during its renovation, development and international integration, beginning with the sixth National Party Congress in December 1986, which initiated the renewal process.

The exhibition is divided into two parts, ‘Vietnam–before renovation’ and ‘Renovation, integration and development’ that show how the lives of Vietnamese people have improved significantly and the country’s position and role in the international arena has risen, thanks to the efforts of the Party, the army and the entire population.

The exhibition, held jointly by National Archives Centre 3, the Archive Department of the Party Central Committee Office, the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the National Museum of Military History, will last until January 5th, 2012.

Int'l artists to feature Vietnam FAME festival  

A special festival of FAME - Fashion, Arts, Music & Entertainment will take place in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh An Village from 4 p.m. on December 10 to 4 a.m. on December 11 to celebrate the 4th year anniversary of dOSe in Vietnam.

dOSe is a series of music dance party in Asia founded by pioneer artists from Tokyo, Manila, Bangkok, Hong Kong, HCMC, Manchester to Frankfurt.

The festival will feature live performances of an alliance of international and local DJ’s, musicians, artists and like-minded people, screening of short films, fashion shows, photo exhibitions and even a barbeque.

The artists are Quantic (UK), DJ Peanuts (France), Jan Hagenkoetter (Germany), DJ Drew (Romania), Jordan Howard (USA), Everyone’s a DJ (Vietnam), Scrambled Edge (Philippines), DJ Slide (Thailand), and Vietnamese vocalist Thao Trang, winner of Vietnam Idol 2009.

Guest artists, including Alicia Billon (Video Graphics – Spain), Saigon Tattoo, designer Linda Mai Phung, and Canadian photographer Fred Wissink will also participate in the event.

A press release from the organizers says Quantic is “one of UK’s most talented and prolific artists in the world of alternative dance music. Their music is a combination of jazz sensibility with future dance floor orientated grooves, deep funk, tough drums and tropical rhythms, presenting “live tropical dub experience.”

Quantic is known for his solo albums, The 5th Exotic, Apricot Morning and Mishaps Happening, as well as his work with live bands and perennial festival favorites, the Quantic Soul Orchestra.

Tickets, priced from VND100,000 to VND150,000, are available at Binh An Village, 1163 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh St., Binh Quoi Ward, Binh Thanh Dist., HCMC.

First made-in-Vietnam video game uses Dien Bien Phu setting  

A Vietnamese 3D-graphic shooting game set in the times of the famous 1954 Dien Bien Phu battle against the French army will be released next February in North America, the game’s developer has announced.

The first major video game developed by a Vietnamese company, 7554 will be exclusively available for PCs at US$12, Emobi Games Company told the PR newswire.

It was also set to be released in Vietnam this December 16, the newswire reported.

The Hanoi-based company said the game gets its name from May 7, 1954 - the day the French army in the northern province of Dien Bien surrendered to Vietnamese soldiers, and shortly after, ended their occupation of Indochina.

The backdrop for this first person shooter (FPS) game is set in Vietnam during the period between 1946 and 1954, when the Vietnamese people struggled against French domination and triumphed at the world famous battle, Emobi Games said, adding that the game’s characters, however, are fictional.

Emobi Games director Nguyen Tuan Huy said in the newswire that: “There has never been a video game of this size and scope from Vietnam and that fact alone gives us a lot of national pride. It is our privilege and our challenge to create a first person shooter that gamers will enjoy playing.

“And though 7554 is based on historical events, it is not an attempt to recreate the past, but rather a vehicle meant for entertainment,” he added.

The game was first scheduled for release on November 26, but was delayed for more than three weeks in order to fix faults in its demo version introduced to gamers before.

Couple Cao Tuan-Anh Tam’s exhibition

An exhibition on paper, color and limitless circles by artistic couple Cao Tuan-Anh Tam is on display  last Saturday at Art Gallery, 4 Nguyen Trai Street in District 5.

With over 30 paintings on display, the exhibition offers viewers a small but harmonious world.

Tuan’s works are colorful, mild and quiet and inspired by nature, happiness and hope. They create a peaceful space, a safe haven for those exhausted with the fast-moving urban life.

Tam’s are plain black and white and express pent-up feelings and focus on internal life via closed circles. That is the reason why she has named her latest paintings ‘Boundless circles’.

The event runs until December 17.
Have a fab Xmas, New Year with Saigontourist

Christmas is almost upon us with hotels and restaurants under management of Saigontourist preparing marvelous food programs to help guests have a ball during the ‘most wonderful time of the year’.

Liberty Central Hotel (179 Le Thanh Ton Street, HCMC’s District 1, tel: 08 3823 9269)

The Bistro Cafe on the hotel’s ground floor offers a special shooter combining Flaming Lamborghini, Grenadine, Kalua, Cointreau, Baileys and Blue Curacao. The mix creates a fiery, dark blue, pungent drink. The cafe also hosts an extended happy hour program from 4-7 p.m., serving Tiger draught beer priced at just VND20,000++.

The Central Restaurant on the first floor this month offers Norwegian salmon with selected dishes such as grilled salmon with lemon cream sauce, baked salmon with black olive sauce, sauteed salmon served with white rice and grilled salmon with banana leaves and mixed rice. The program is accompanied with piano shows taking guest’s requests in the evenings.

On Christmas Eve (December 24) and New Year’s Eve (December 31) the restaurant will host buffet programs featuring seafood, salmon, beef, fruit and chocolate.

The Christmas program will be rocked along with circus and juggling performances and kids will be given gifts from Santa Claus. New Year’s Eve celebrations will be pulsed by live music shows.

The programs will be hosted from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and tickets are priced at VND399,000++ per adult, VND200,000 per child under 1.4 meters with children under one meter getting in for free.

Que Huong Liberty 4 Hotel (265 Pham Ngu Lao Street, HCMC’s District 1, tel: 3936 4556)

A barbecued seafood buffet will be held from December 23 to 25 and December 30-31 with all your traditional festive favorites such as turkey, pumpkin soup, grilled lamb and Christmas cake. Tickets are priced at VND245,000 per adult and VND125,000 per child, inclusive of a bug of Tiger draught beer or soft drink. If you buy ten tickets you get one free. The restaurant also offers 10% discount for guests who book before December 20.

Grand Saigon Hotel (8 Dong Khoi Street, HCMC’s District 1, tel: 3823 0163)

The Grand Gala Buffet will be hosted from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on December 24 and 31 on the second floor of the Saigon Palace Restaurant. The buffet will feature various delicious Western and Asian dishes and piano, violin and cello shows.

Tickets are priced at VND1.26 million++ per adult and VND840,000++ per child, inclusive of several choices of drinks.

There is a buy ten tickets get one free offer for the Brunch Buffet on December 25 and January 1 which will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Saigon Palace Restaurant and priced at VND929,000++ per adult and VND629,000++ per adult.

On Christmas Eve from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. tourists can celebrate the special night at Grand Cafe for VND590,000, including soft drinks. On New Year’s Eve, the cafe also hosts a food program priced at VND890,000 including soft drinks.
Scooter Run heads to Nha Be

Saigon Scooter Center on Thursday opened registration for expatriates and locals alike to participate in the Sixth Annual Christmas Scooter Run with the aim of raising funds for underprivileged children and elderly people in HCMC’s outlying district of Nha Be.

Organizer Patrick Joynt said participants would depart on Sunday, December 18 at 9:30 a.m. at Sesame Restaurant at 153 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street in HCMC’s Binh Thanh District for La Cu Pagoda, which is home to more than 40 children, numerous AO victims and elderly people.

“This year, we turn our attention toward La Cu Pagoda for our first ever Santa-in-the-City trip,” Joynt said. “The event will take a very similar format to previous years, where breakfast is served and we will meet first at Sesame Restaurant, register all riders, collect toys, handout our kits and t-shirts.

“It should be an interesting ride through District 7 to visit the pagoda, and from there, head around the city’s periphery, over the Phu My Bridge, bound for Cafe Xe Co in Thu Duc District, where our usual array of activities will follow.”

The 5,000 square-meter cafe will play host to an afternoon barbecue, bike show, obstacle course, slow drive races, DJs and live music and lucky draws throughout the afternoon, with all proceeds going to the selected charities.

Tickets, priced from VND300,000, for the Scooter Run can be purchased at Saigon Scooter Center, 25/7 Cuu Long Street, Tan Binh District as well as the Vespa Shop at Saigon Square, Ton Duc Thang Street in District 1.

Further information can be found at

British Council workshop on role of public, private sector in films  

The British Council in Vietnam and Yxine Film Festival will jointly conduct a workshop themed “Role of public, private sector in film industry- Lessons learnt from UK” in Ho Chi Minh City on December 12.

The workshop will be held at Gloria Jean’s Coffee shop on 106 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in District 3.

Simon Farley, Head of Business Development, Creative Industries at British Council in Thailand, will make the main presentation and Marcus Manh Cuong Vu, Festival Director of YxineFF will chair the workshop.

Simon Farley will present an overview of the recent history of UK, government policies and measures to encourage investment in culture, with particular focus on films and the role of agencies such as Film London and the UK Film Council, having worked closely with both.

He will also present an overview of the role of the private sector in the UK art world, from his direct experience of managing a range of high profile public festivals and media events with multiple sponsoring partners.

Illegal sand dredging destroys Truong Xe relic site  

Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Binh Dinh Province in association with the University of Social Sciences and Humanities announced on December 6 results of excavations conducted at the Truong Xe relic site.  

During the months of August and September this year, scientists excavated seven pits on a 200 square meter area in My Thang Commune of Phu My District in Binh Dinh Province, discovering three ancient stoves, many stone axes and several pottery items dating back 2,500 to 3,000 years. A particular piece of ancient bronze cinder could not be dated, remaining a mystery.

According to Associate professor Ph.D Lam Thi My Dung of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the National University in Hanoi, this is the last excavation at the Truong Xe relic site, as most of the relic has already been destroyed from illegal sand dredging of the area.

During earlier excavations, the relic had remained almost untouched. However, now there are only a few objects left with many items of pottery and stone showing that much damage has been caused to the relic.