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THOMAS AUCIELLO / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Carol Pucci takes a ride on a motorbike in Hanoi.

CAROL PUCCI / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The start of rush hour in old Hanoi. Five years ago, the main way of getting around was by bicycle. Now it’s motorbikes.

CAROL PUCCI / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Green Tangerine restaurant occupies a restored French villa in Hanoi’s old quarter.

CAROL PUCCI / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Vietnamese eat curbside from a vendor dishing out bowls of noodle soup called pho.

CAROL PUCCI / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Woven handbags sell for a few dollars at stalls in the old quarter of Hanoi.

A bargain destination

Hanoi: The city is a bargain destination for American travelers, but figuring out how much a U. S. dollar buys in Vietnamese dong can be a challenge. The exchange rate is $1 to 15,760 dong. Bring a calculator, or print out a cheat seat on www.oanda.com.

Many merchants quote prices in dollars as well as dong, and it’s often possible to pay in U.S. dollars. ATMs dispense dongs. Many hotels, restaurants and shops accept credit cards.

Here’s what some things cost:

Double room with breakfast: Golden Lotus Hotel, $50

Vietnamese ice coffee: Cafe Pho Co, 75 cents

Entrance fee to Temple of Literature: 30 cents

Beer: $1

Internet, one hour: 35 cents

Airport limo: $10

Water puppet performance: Thang Long Theatre, $2.40

Dinner for two: Highway 4 North Vietnamese restaurant, $12 with drinks.

Hand-painted silk scarves at Craftlink: a nonprofit organization helping ethnic minorities, $8.50

Baguette: 35 cents

Scooting around Hanoi

By Carol Pucci
Seattle Times travel writer

HANOI — “Madam, motorbike?” he asked, patting the seat of his beat-up Honda.

His glasses, graying hair and mustache reminded me of my father. Perfect. When it comes to getting around Hanoi the way everyone does — on a motorbike, experience trumps a fancy bike.

We agreed on a price for the short ride back to my hotel. I hopped on, hugged his waist and off we went, honking our way around a few cars and buses, but mostly other bikes.

It was mid-afternoon, and traffic was light. I wouldn’t do this at rush hour, or in the rain when the streets are a sea of colored plastic ponchos, but for a short ride with a good driver, it actually felt safer than crossing a busy intersection on foot. It certainly was easier.

“Five or six years ago, all you could see in the streets were bicycles,” says Cuong Nguyen, 29, a guide for a local travel agency.

If the trend continues, Hanoi’s streets will be clogged with cars in another five or six years, just like Bangkok and Beijing.

For now, however, the back of an xe om — motorcycle taxi or moto for short — is an efficient way of getting from one place to another quickly.

It’s also cheap thrills. My ride cost 60 cents.

Hanoi is a fantastic bargain for shopping, eating and sightseeing.

The best eating is done squatting curbside on a plastic stool while a woman dishes out bowls of pho (noodle soup) spiked with lime, slices of chili pepper and handfuls of fresh herbs.

Sidewalks aside, there are tons of atmospheric restaurants hidden in converted 19th-century shophouses along the old quarter’s back streets. Two can eat well for $10-$12 with beer or fruit shakes.

We had our best meal so far at Green Tangerine in a restored French villa, where the upstairs dining room overlooks a garden courtyard.

The chef turns out traditional French food, but a restaurant like this is a good opportunity to sample well-prepared traditional Vietnamese dishes several cuts above what’s available on the street or in small cafes.

The pho with spring onions was more delicate than anything we had tasted so far. With the fans spinning overhead, the shutters open and French jazz almost drowning out the traffic noise, the Tangerine is a splurge by Hanoi standards, but like most everything here, a bargain by ours. The bill was $21 each with drinks.

O.C.’s Little Saigon to add arches to welcome tourists

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The Little Saigon Business Development group will soon begin raising funds for the archways, which will cost $500,000 each. The gates will be located on Bolsa Avenue at Magnolia and Ward streets.

By My-Thuan Tran, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 3, 2007

For years, people stumbling into Little Saigon knew they were in the heart of Orange County’s Vietnamese community only when they noticed restaurant signs advertising pho noodles or caught snippets of conversations in Vietnamese.

Now, community leaders hope the place will be hard to miss: Plans are to build two ornate archways at the entrances of the bustling ethnic business district centered around Bolsa Avenue in Westminster.

Little Saigon markers

Graphic

Little Saigon markers

click to enlarge

City officials say the archways — conceived to replace earlier conceptsdeemed “too Chinese” — will be the first step in transforming Little Saigon into a tourist destination.

While the area attracts more than 33,000 cars a day, its restaurants and businesses cater mostly to the community, which has struggled to reel in customers from outside.

“The archways will put Little Saigon on the map,” said Councilman Andy Quach, who is spearheading the project. “People will want to go to Little Saigon to look at the art display and take pictures of it.”

The Little Saigon Business Development group will soon begin raising funds for the archways, which will cost $500,000 each. The gates, to span Bolsa Avenue at Magnolia and Ward streets, were approved by the Westminster City Council last year.

The project has attracted the attention of Vietnamese Americans across the country, Quach said.

Virginia’s Vietnamese community will host a dinner fundraiser in Falls Church in December.

Other fundraisers are scheduled for Sydney, Australia, and possibly Hawaii, according to Quach.

“This is not a regional project,” he said. “Vietnamese people across the country visit Little Saigon often, and they see this archway as something that is close and dear to part of their lives.”

The 26-foot-tall archways will show the journey of Vietnamese Americans since the Vietnam War, said Hong Nguyen, president of H & L Architects Inc., which designed them.

The images carved into the cast iron depict a helicopter atop the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, rickety boats in which hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese escaped, the refugee camps they came to and the Statue of Liberty, symbolizing “the love of freedom of the Vietnamese people,” Nguyen said.

The last image is of Vietnamese Americans wearing graduation hats.

“This archway is more than a symbol of tourism,” said Roxanne Chow, a Westminster planning commissioner involved in the project. “It’s a project that is dedicated for the millions of people who sacrificed their lives for freedom.”

In the last three decades, community leaders have worked to distinguish Little Saigon as thousands of Vietnamese restaurants and shops popped up in the 3-square-mile segment of Westminster and Garden Grove.

An earlier plan for an elaborate bridge across Bolsa Avenue, however, came under fire in the Vietnamese community for being “too Chinese” with its design of dragons and a green-tiled pagoda.

That idea, put forth in 1996 by developer Frank Jao, was eventually dropped.

Now the Vietnamese American community will finally have a landmark in Little Saigon that is truly dedicated to its homeland, Quach said.

my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

PANEL OF VIETNAMESE AMERICAN FILMMAKERS
“Inside Vietnamese American Filmmaking”

Featuring (in alphabetical order): Tony Bui, Jenni Trang Le, Le-Van Kiet, Charlie Nguyen, Ham Tran, and Victor Vu

When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 2007
3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Where: Viet Art Center
12965 Historic Main Street, Garden Grove, CA 92840
Contact: VAALA (714) 893-6145
Email: vaala91@yahoo.com ; Website: www.vaala.org

The Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is hosting a film panel entitled “Inside Vietnamese American Filmmaking,” featuring  some of the most talented Vietnamese American filmmakers (in alphabetical order):  Tony Bui, Jenni Trang Le, Le-Van Kiet, Charlie Nguyen, Ham Tran, and Victor Vu.  The panel will focus on different aspects of filmmaking “behind-the-scenes” including idea development, script or screenwriting, casting, production and shooting, and marketing and distribution.  Mariam Lam, Ph.D. (UC Riverside) and Tu-Uyen Nguyen, Ph.D. (CSU Fullerton) will co-moderate the panel and audience members will be invited to dialogue with the panelists.  The film panel is sponsored by CSUF and Farmers Insurance Group.

The film panel is being held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Exhibition “Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon,” which is sponsored by California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) at the Viet Art Center in Garden Grove, California until Sunday, Dec. 2.  This exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to learn about the challenges, contributions and advancement of the Vietnamese-American community from 1975 to present-day.  For more information on the exhibition, please click on http://campusapps.fullerton.edu/news/2007/37_smithsonian.html and  www.vietartcenter.net .

Filmmakers’ Bio

Tony Bui – Writer/director/producer

Tony Bui graduated from Loyola Marymount University with his short film YELLOW LOTUS, winner of over 15 national/international film festival awards.  Shortly after, he was invited to attend the highly acclaimed Sundance Institute Screenwriting and Directing Labs at the age of 23.
Bui made his feature film debut as writer and director of THREE SEASONS (starring Harvey Keitel), winner of the Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award and Best Cinematography Award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, marking the first time in Sundance’s history that the same film won both the Grand Jury and Audience Award.  THREE SEASONS was also selected for Official Competition at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival, and received two Independent Spirit Award Nominations the following year, including Best First Film.  THREE SEASONS was the first American film to shoot entirely in Vietnam.
Bui also co-wrote and produced GREEN DRAGON (starring Patrick Swayze and Forest Whitaker).  GREEN DRAGON premiered in Competition at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, and was a recipient of a 2001 Humanitas Award.  Bui has also written and directed national commercials, most recently for the new Pepsi/Mt Dew campaign.  Bui is currently writing and directing the feature film THE WALK for HBO, with Ted Hope and Anne Carey producing.  Bui serves on the Board of Directors of Film Independent and currently resides in Los Angeles.


Jenni Trang Le – Writer/director/producer)
Jenni Trang Le graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UCLA.  In 1999, she began crafting stories in performance art and cultural debauchery with Club O’ Noodles, a Vietnamese American theatre troupe.  This led to her involvement with the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) and the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF) in 2003.
In 2003, Le worked on Ham Tran’s JOURNEY FROM THE FALL as the office coordinator.  After that, she has been involved in numerous film productions as talent liaison and associate producer of HOLLY(2003, directed by Guy Moshe), a film about child prostitution in the gritty reality of Cambodia.  She has also held the role as first assistant director of FINDING MADISON (2005, directed by Tuan Tran), OWL AND THE SPARROW (2006, directed by Stephane Gauger) and, most recently, the action romance period film THE REBEL (2006, directed by Charlie Nguyen).  In January 2007, Le received the Armed with a Camera Fellowship through Visual Communications where she wrote, directed and animated a 5-minute claymation entitled OH MOMMY! (Mẹ Ơi!).  OH MOMMY! was Le’s directorial debut and she is proud to flow within the creative waters of the new Viet Film Wave, weaving stories and interlacing visuals that touch the soul.


Le-Van Kiet (writer/director)
Le-Van Kiet was born in Vietnam. He and his family were part of the Second Wave of Boat People who risked their lives to immigrate to the United States in 1982 when he was two years old.  Kiet received a grant from the UCLA School of Film and Television, which is awarded to the best student film in his class, for his short film THE SILENCE.  DUST OF LIFE is the product of a three year journey and marks Le-Van Kiet’s first feature film debut.  DUST OF LIFE was selected to conclude Vietnamese International Film Festival 2007.  The film was recently screened at Austin Film Festival in October 2007.  It will be released theatrically in Spring 2008.


Charlie Nguyen – Producer/writer/director
Charlie Nguyen began his career producing and directing hundreds of music videos, sitcoms, short films, documentaries and live concerts in various cities worldwide.  He is well-known in the Vietnamese-American entertainment industry for his work with Van Son Entertainment.  His notable documentaries include THE OLD LOVER (Người Tình Già, 2002), about musician Phạm Duy, and well-received Japan and Australia installments of a documentary series on different Asian nations.
Nguyen and his own team of filmmakers also created Cinema Pictures from the ground up in 1992. Their first feature, HÙNG VƯƠNG THE 18TH (1994), written and directed by Nguyen, was independently funded and set the tone for exciting pictures that infused history, martial arts and drama. His film credits also include CHANCES ARE (2002, director/writer), FINDING MADISON (2005, producer) and the hit release THE REBEL (Dòng Máu Anh Hùng) (2007, director/co-writer/producer/editor).  THE REBEL received the Grand Jury Award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, 2007 and the Best Audience Choice Award at the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF), 2007.
He is currently touring film festivals with THE REBEL, distributed by The Weinstein Company, and is in development with The Weinstein Company on other potential film projects.


Ham Tran – Producer/writer/director
Ham Tran graduated from UCLA with a master’s degree in film and television.  His short films have won numerous accolades, including the National Finalist for the Student Academy Awards for two years-in-a-row for his short films THE PRESCRIPTION and POMEGRANATE.  Tran’s thesis film THE ANNIVERSARY won over 30 international awards, including the prestigious USA Film Festival award for Best Short Film.  In 2004, THE ANNIVERSARY was a Semi-Finalist for the Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short.
Tran’s first feature debut “Journey from the Fall” world-premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and has garnered over 10 awards in worldwide film festivals. Imaginasian Entertainment releases the film theatrically in Spring 2007.            The DVD of JOURNEY FROM THE FALL is now available at Blockbuster Online, Netflix and Amazon.com.


Victor Vu – Writer/director
Victor Vu was born and raised in Southern California and received his bachelor’s degree in film production at Loyola Marymount University.  His thesis project, a short film entitled FIRECRACKER won the Short Film Award at the Newport Beach International Film Festival as well as the Student Showcase Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival.  Vu spent the next six years working in Visual Effects for Sony Pictures Imageworks and Eastman Kodak’s Cinesite Digital Studios, on such films as STARSHIP TROOPERS, CONTACT, and X-MEN 2.
In 2002, he formed the company, Strange Logic Entertainment, with producing partner Philip Silverman.  Vu’s feature film debut, FIRST MORNING (Buổi Sáng Đầu Năm), received the Best Feature Film Award at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and was released by Illuminare Entertainment in 2005.  His second feature film, a supernatural thriller entitled OAN HỒN (Spirits), about which Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times labeled “an exquisite ghost story; a unique and powerful film.”  This film premiered at numerous film festivals including the Bangkok International Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, Fantasia Montreal and was distributed by MonteCristo International.
Most recently, Vu’s production company, in association with the MonteCristo Fund LLC, completed the first episode of MYSTERIOUS WORLD (Thế Giới Huyền Bí), an anthology series of supernatural stories created by Vu. Vu is currently developing THE INFORMER, an action/thriller set in Vietnam.

Moderators

Mariam Lam, Ph.D., is a professor of literature, media & cultural studies, and Southeast Asian studies at the UC Riverside. She specializes in Southeast Asian and Asian American literature, film, popular culture, gender and sexuality, translation, tourism and community politics.  She is currently finishing her book project, “Surfin’ Vietnam: Trauma, Memory, and Cultural Politics in Literature and Film,” which analyzes cultural production and community politics within and across Vietnam, France, and the United States.  She has taught at UC Irvine and Loyola Marymount University prior to UCR.


Tu-Uyen Nguyen, Ph.D., was born in Vietnam, but left with her family by boat in 1979.  She is currently a professor in the Asian American Studies Program at Cal State Fullerton.  She received her masters and Ph.D. degrees in public health from UCLA and works closely with various Asian and Pacific Islander communities nationwide on collaborative health programs focusing on cancer education and linguistic and cultural competency.  Tu-Uyen has been involved in organizing the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF) since the first installment in 2003.

Participating Organizations
Cal
State Fullerton (CSUF)
Cal State Fullerton is a dynamic, vibrant public university that proudly celebrates 50 years of service to the diverse people, culture and economy of Southern California.  “U.S. News & World Report” lists Cal State Fullerton among its “Top Public Universities,” ranking it among the top 10 of the nation’s “Top Public Universities-Master’s” institutions in the West.  As of fall 2007, a total of 37,130 students are enrolled at Cal State Fullerton.  It continues to aspire to combine the best qualities of teaching and research universities where actively engaged students, faculty and staff work in close collaboration to expand knowledge.

Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA)
Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1991 by a group of Vietnamese-American journalists, artists and friends.  VAALA’s mission is to support artists to enrich Vietnamese arts and culture. VAALA creates opportunities for artists to interact with their audience, and facilitates dialogue among different ethnic groups through various forms of art.  VAALA has served thousands of audience members through many activities such as exhibitions, performances, recitals, symposiums, panel discussions and the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF).   VAALA’s events have been extensively covered by local, national and international press.  VAALA is a member of Arts Orange County.

Viet Art Center (VAC)
Viet Art Center (VAC) serves as a community art center to support contemporary artists engaging in all forms of cultural arts. Our mission is to preserve and advance Vietnamese arts and culture; foster creativity and excellence; provide exhibition space to new and established artists; promote educational programs and activities that encourage public awareness, participation, and appreciation of arts and culture. VAC is a unique bridge to foster improved friendship and economic ties between Vietnamese-American communities and American communities.

Oscar – A romantic dream for Vietnamese movie
10:22′ 07/11/2007 (GMT+7)

Actress Truong Ngoc Anh in The White Silk Dress

VietNamNet Bridge – It is good news that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has decided to send The White Silk Dress to the 2008 Oscars. However, it is a far-away dream for the film to be honoured at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on February 24, 2008.

 

The White Silk Dress to represent Vietnam at next Oscars

 

Despite shortcomings pointed out by critics, The White Silk Dress won the Audience’s Prize at the Busan Film Festival in the Republic of Korea and the Golden Kite Prize 2007 of the Vietnam Cinema Association after that.

 

The film also won the audience prize in Fukuoka, Japan and most recently, it was declared best foreign film at the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival in China.

 

These prizes can testify to the power of the traditional ao dai, through which gives concrete expression the image of Vietnamese women, who are faithful, thrifty, sacrifice for their families. Vietnamese wives and mothers have never shrunk from challenges and they always devote their bodies and their souls for their husbands and children.

 

“The White Silk Dress is a magnificent film sketch of a humble and oppressed family, who maintains its pride and virtue and surpasses adversity. It shows the strong-hearted power of the Vietnamese woman though she suffers extreme poverty,” commented Korean movie critic Kim Ji Seok.

 

Vietnam has sent some movies to the Oscars, including Buffalo Boy by overseas Vietnamese director Nguyen Vo Minh Nghiem in 2006, Pao’s Story by Ngo Quang Hai in 2007. Previously, The Scent of Green Papaya by overseas Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung was named on the list of nominees for the Best Foreign Film prize at the 2003 Oscars.

 

While conducting formalities to send The White Silk Dress to the US, actor Phuoc Sang, Director of the Phuoc Sang Film, one of the producers of the film, was very happy. He said: “This is the first time a private film is representing Vietnam at the Oscars. Unlike other film festivals, each country can send only one film, which is nominated by the government, to the Oscar festival and The White Silk Dress is nominated by the government. This is a real “Made-in-Vietnam” film in every stage, from production to distribution, etc.”.

 

The White Silk Dress will have to compete with over 100 films from many developed movie industries, such as France, Germany, Italy, Canada, China, Korea Republic, Japan and Iran, among many others in the preliminary selection. The road to the top 20 foreign films at the Oscars has many obstacles and entering this list would be a great victory for Vietnam’s young movie sector.

 

According to Phuoc Sang, The White Silk Dress meets international standards on sound, light, images otherwise it would have been rejected early. He said that even if the film was not successful at this festival, Phuoc Sang Film would continue to invest in similar films like The White Silk Dress in the future because “film makers must be whole-hearted and have artistic personality so one day, Vietnamese films will be honoured in the US, the seat of the most powerful movie industry in the world.”

 

“Cinema is one of the short-cuts to let the world know about the land and the people of Vietnam. Though The White Silk Dress wins or doesn’t win a prize at the Oscars, I still hope that it will bring some knowledge about Vietnam to international audiences,” said Duong Cam Thuy, Vice Chairwoman of the Vietnam Cinema Association.

Four Vietnamese models selected for Miss FTV 2007
17:18′ 07/11/2007 (GMT+7)

Model Ngoc Quyen

VietNamNet Bridge – Fashion TV (FTV) will choose four Vietnamese models for its Miss FTV 2007 in Thailand.

 

Director of P.L Model Agent Company, Thanh Long, said that he received FTV’s invitation to send 20 models to a fashion show on Mega-F Diamond Cruise Ship of FTV on November 9 at Nha Rong Wharf, HCM City. There, FTV Jury will choose four models for its Miss FTV 2007 in Thailand on November 13.

 

P.L Model Agent Company has nominated four women, Thanh Hoai, Khanh Ngoc, Ngoc Quyen and Hoang Diep. The personal records of these models have been submitted to the Art Performance Agency for consideration for licencing.

 

Of the four models, Khanh Ngoc is the tallest, 1.81m. She won the Gold Prize at the Vietnam Supermodel 2007 contest and represented Vietnam at Miss Universe 2004 in Ecuador.

 

Ngoc Quyen entered the finals of the Vietnam Model 2006 contest. This 18-year-old model is also an actress.

 

Model Thanh Hoai was the first runner-up of the Miss Vietnam in photo and attended Miss Earth 2005 in the Philippines.

 

Hoang Diep, 22, is an exclusive model of P.L.

 

Miss FTV 2007 is a weekly contest. Each week around 20-30 models are invited to compete on the Mega-F Diamond boat. The three top models will enter the year-end Grand Finale round.

 

If their records are approved, the four Vietnamese models will go to Phuket, Thailand for Miss FTV 2007 on November 13.

 

In the fashion show at Nha Rong Wharf on November 9, Vietnamese models will model Thuan Viet ao dai and a collection of Van Thanh Cong.

 

T.C

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