in In Plain Sight

Hanoi's Largest Indoor Aquarium Is Surprisingly Impressive for a Mall Attraction

I am a champion of the public aquarium. For many people, the aquarium is the only place where they can meet marine life outside of perhaps a wet market or seafood restaurant. Some research suggests that watching fish swim around can reduce stress and lower blood pressure, and that seeing marine life in their (simulated) habitats can inspire people to care more about these endangered species in their besieged environments. For the serious study of marine life, aquaria allow biologists to observe the behaviors of animals that are otherwise difficult to observe in nature. Vietnam has a few public aquaria: the Viện Hải Dương Học and Trí Nguyên Aquarium in Nha Trang, the Vinpearland-branded aquaria in Hanoi, Phú Quốc, and Nha Trang, and a handful of others. When Vietnam’s newest aquarium opened at the end of last summer, I had to go take a look.

Paul Christiansen

in Loạt Soạt

Social Commentary, Empathy in Nguyễn Quang Thân's Short Story Collection

Nguyễn Quang Thân passed away on March 4, 2017, several weeks before I moved to Saigon. So of course I never met him, but I feel like I know him. My first introduction was via An Insignificant Family, the fictionalized memoir written by his wife, writer Dạ Ngân, which includes a description of the 10 years they spent apart, writing letters to one another from opposite ends of the nation, followed by their life together. In the years since I first interviewed her about that novel, I’ve been blessed to be adopted as her son; one of the greatest gifts of my life. No visit with her goes past without him being mentioned. For years, Nguyễn Quang Thân has simply been Ba Thân. 

Paul Christiansen

in Music & Arts

At Bùi Chát's Painting Exhibition, a Freedom to Feel Without Preconceptions

Contemporary art can intimidate viewers. People often think they need familiarity with certain histories, theories, philosophies and biographies to appreciate a painting. I have friends who do not have a formal art education or extensive art background and thus think visual art is not for them. 

Paul Christiansen

in Literature

How Nam Cao Almost Ruined My Favorite Canal Cafe

Spoilers for an 80-year-old story that every student in the nation is required to read: the dog dies, the old man dies, his son's misfortunes show no sign of abetting. Simply, misery abounds at the end of “Lão Hạc.”

Paul Christiansen

in In Plain Sight

On a Boat Ride Through Nhiêu Lộc Canal, a Fish's-Eye View of Saigon

Could your life in Saigon be made into a quirky indie film? 

in Music & Arts

Galuocad's Artworks Create a Universe of Very-Vietnamese Whimsy

Staying in one place for an extended period can lead to what's known as the "boiled frog effect."

in Loạt Soạt

A World of Riveting Medically Inspired Magic in Vanessa Le's YA Debut

Captured by Butchers, the “blackmarket bogey men who deal in rare goods,” Nhika Suonyasan is caged and auctioned off to the city’s elite. A figure in a fox mask attempting to purchase her is outbid by a rich family that carts her off to a mansion that boasts luxury beyond anything Nhika has ever seen. The family immediately commands her to heal a witness to the wealthy patriarch’s death.

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in Culture

Inside the Bình Thạnh Depot Where Retro Military Knick-Knacks Live

“This furniture has been around for many decades, but you can use them normally without the fear of breaking them. Because they are industrial equipment made for the military or office buildings, they...

Paul Christiansen

in Music & Arts

The Haunting Beauty in Một Mét Studio's Vintage Photography Experiments

“With the wet collodion process, when you get your portrait shot, it really cannot lie; it really reveals the story of your life on your face. You will see through your make-up, through the tattoos; t...

in In Plain Sight

At Bá Tân Bookstore, a Home for Vintage Books, Readers, and Goodness

I got to know Bá Tân Bookstore thanks to a friend’s suggestion.

in Literature

English-Language Edition of 'Chinatown' by Thuận Wins US Translation Award

The 2023 National Translation Award for fiction was given by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) to Nguyễn An Lý’s translation of Chinatown by Thuận.

in Loạt Soạt

'The Mountain in the Sea' Is a Meditation on Myths, Monsters, and the Mind

“A myth,” said existentialist psychologist Rollo May, “is a way of making sense in a senseless world.” Humans need myths and legends to survive. And they need us to survive too; it’s how we’ve learned...

in Arts & Culture

Art Direction of Ngọt's Gieo Album Nominated for Best Package at 2024 Grammys

Over the weekend, the Recording Academy unveiled the coveted list of nominees for the 2024 Grammys. Amongst the likes of Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and SZA, a Vietnamese name stood out, much to the ...

in Music & Arts

In Quện's Live Sets, Đà Lạt's Everyday Corners Turn Spontaneous Stages

All attention was aimed towards the same direction, the one where an accident had just taken place. Near 24C, Hoàng Diệu Street in the city of Đà Lạt, two vehicles collided. The shock and chaos attrac...

in Film & TV

On 'Past Lives,' Duyên, and the Complexities of Vietnamese Diasporic Identities

Past Lives left me bereft, much like how the reunion of main characters Hae-sung and Nora concluded at the end of the film — that is, without much conclusion at all.

in Music & Arts

Bodies of Work Shred, Re-Shaped at 'White Noise' Exhibition

A dystopian setting where the human body appears scattered, its parts eerily dismembered, its desires and beliefs examined by the hands of a machine is fictionalized in the “White Noise” exhibition, n...

in Film & TV

The Charming 1990s Nostalgia in the Phim Mì Ăn Liền Cinematic Universe

If you lurk around online discussions of Vietnamese cinema, you probably have stumbled upon the term phim mì ăn liền, or “instant noodles films.” This popular Vietnamese expression describes local mot...

Paul Christiansen

in Loạt Soạt

Khải Đơn's Poetry Debut Won't Shy Away From the Mekong Delta's Untold Complexities

Environmental devastation, irresponsible development, economic imperilment, social ills, war legacies and the abandonment of cultural traditions and connections: these multifaceted, interconnected rea...

in Film & TV

Meet DeeDee, the Studio Behind Netflix Docuseries 'How to Become a Cult Leader'

With a frantic, rabid fury flickering in his eyes, Charles Manson swerves through technicolor 1960s Hollywood streets, the passengers in his convertible terrified by the crazed maneuvering of a man wh...

in Music & Arts

Local Illustrator Recreates Saigon's Convenience Stores as Adorable Cartoon Houses

In the early 2010s, convenience stores emerged as an affordable alternative for Vietnamese youths, especially those with limited disposable income, to chill. A decade later, the widespread mushrooming...

in Literature

Viet Thanh Nguyen Memoir 'A Man of Two Faces' Releases Today

A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, a History, a Memorial, the new book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen arrives from Grove City Press on October 3. 

in Music & Arts

How Richie Fawcett's Saigon Sketches Illuminate a Decade of Change

It’s been hidden right there in the heart of Saigon for over half a decade. 

in Culture

Phan Thiết's Vibrant Whale Worship Festival Reflects Vietnam's Rich Animist Traditions

Whale worship started from a folk belief harbored by fishermen seeking help from the gods to endure the arduous days spent at sea, but over time, it grew to become one of the most prominent spiritual ...

Paul Christiansen

in In Plain Sight

Shrimp Fishing in Thanh Đa Is Fun Even When You Don't Catch Anything

If it weren’t for shrimps, developing taste buds would have been an outrageous waste of evolutionary time and resources. Truly, without the potential for boiled, grilled, fried, baked or even raw shri...

Khôi Phạm

in Film & TV

Review: 'Bến Phà Xác Sống' Is the 2nd-Worst Movie I've Ever Watched. I'm Sad It's Over.

The day when the Saigoneer team organized a little get-together to watch Bến Phà Xác Sống in the cinema, I was running seriously late.

in Culture

On the Hunt for One-of-a-Kind Treasures in Saigon's Thriving Thrift Shops

In the summer of 2021, Hương Nguyễn decided to pivot away from her office job and launch an online thrift store called Vintage Hearts. She was motivated by how difficult it was to find clothing in Sai...

in Arts & Culture

Ocean Vuong Brings Vietnamese Text, Original Photos to Helmut Lang Collection

Peter Do, the recently named Creative Director of the storied fashion brand Helmut Lang, enlisted writer Ocean Vuong to provide text and photos for his debut collection.