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The Art of Living Explored at Passion Week

When you see a flower, you must not see only the flower, you must see its seeds and fruits, the loamy soil it grew from and will return to; you must smell the sweet scents it emits to attract pollinators; and hear the way a soft spring rain falls against it petals.

The first person to pick a flower from the earth to bring home did so because it stirred something in their heart, and their life was made better for it. The art of floral arrangements is an effort to recapture that early urge. These principles guide renowned floral artist Alfie Lin, as he explains to Saigoneer.

Last month’s Passion Week at the Park Hyatt Saigon began with Lin sharing his understanding of flowers to a captivated audience. “A banana tree is a banana tree,” he proclaimed while placing a young one on the empty table. “We don’t need to add anything else because nature is beautiful and humans cannot improve upon nature,” he said before offering some tangible advice on how to select, pair and display flowers to bring out that natural grace. As the class scurried around the room collecting a variety of local and imported flowers to make their own arrangements, Passion Week was officially underway.

The four-day event included master classes with artists from vastly different fields, special dinners hosted by Michelin star chefs and a variety of ways to interact with “the art of living.” It revealed Park Hyatt Saigon as not just one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, but one committed to fostering an appreciation for the finer things in life.

Talking to someone who not only loves their own life, but life in general, is a precious opportunity, and few people display a more genuine exuberance for their daily affairs than famous perfumer Blaise Mautin. He sat down with Saigoneer to share the surreal history that took him from toy store doorman to designer of bespoke perfumes that, on one occasion, an individual paid US$50,000 for to use exclusively inside his private helicopter. After our talk, which included everything from why perfumes no longer use natural musk from the anal glands of Nepalese deer to how different scents are interpreted based on climate and culture, he led his master class.

For several fascinating hours, Mautin explained how perfumes are made, and then led the packed room through a sampling of 21 different scents. The diverse group of Vietnamese and international students tried to guess what the scents were and how they worked before eventually trying to create their own signature blend. By the end, thanks to Mautin’s jovial demeanor and unbridled enthusiasm for all thinks olfactory, the room was filled with laughter, inside jokes and friendships.

One might hear the name Park Hyatt and see the types of events Passion Week offered and assume the entire affair would be expensive and disconnected from the community. However, Bradley Theodore, the week’s visual artist, who has a reputation as one of the world’s leading street artists, with an impressive resume that includes a solo show at the prestigious Maddox Gallery, serving as official designer for the US Open and collaborations with luminaries like Rolls Royce and the Wu-Tang Clan, explained to Saigoneer that being involved in the event represented a chance for him to give back as an artist. The painting he produced during the final gala dinner, for example, was auctioned off with proceeds going to Xuan, a charity supporting education for Vietnamese children. He also shared that his first trip to Vietnam was a chance for him to find inspiration and learn from the city’s unique vibrancy and artistic traditions.

In the same way Theodore challenged assumptions about the role of money in art, Argentinian chef Paulo Airaudo provided a refreshing juxtaposition to conventional views on cuisine. Refusing to take the stance that the customer is always right, or that guest pallets need to be considered, Airaudo says his restaurant is like his house, and when he cooks at home he makes the dishes he wants to eat. If people don’t like them, they aren’t wrong, but they can go elsewhere. His gala dinner reflected that ethos, as exemplified by the mackerel with beetroot and creme fraiche he served that doubled down on intensity and flavor. The week’s four dinners, all crafted by Michelin star chefs, highlighted the independence and confidence that is leading creative cooking around the world.

Vietnam is becoming ever-more affluent and globally connected, and Passion Week represented people’s ability here to connect with world-class artists. In that way, the event reflected Park Hyatt Saigon’s overall commitment to providing decadent international experiences. While the four days passed as quickly as a flower blooming on a tabletop, its effects will no doubt linger in the minds of guests for a long time to come.


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