Mamma Mia Meets Vietnam

January 30, 2010

Spontaneous song-and-dance numbers. A sunny, seaside resort locale. Boy meets girl. On the surface, it certainly looks like Mamma Mia! (which would make sense in ABBA-obsessed Vietnam).

If this is your first Tet in Vietnam, you might be surprised to find that cinemas are beginning to screen a bevy of homegrown movies. One of the film’s released this weekend is–to our knowledge–the first film musical made in Vietnam: Nhung Nu Hon Ruc Ro (Glamorous Kisses). Contributing Editor Thomas Maresca first teased it in the September cover story, “Vietnamese Film Gets Focused,” and we recently found the trailer while compiling the Box Office section for the February issue of AsiaLIFE.

Directed by Nguyen Quang Dung, whose last two movies both broke the country’s box office records, the film follows the exploits of a non-traditional hotel heiress who decides to put on a music show to save her family’s Nha Trang resort from bankruptcy. It took a bit of digging to find that information, which is not to say we didn’t enjoy the following English translations of the plot summaries on cinema websites:

Lam is a rich lady but she is a perverse and haughty person. Beside, she was inherited beauty resort in Nha Trang by her family – Galaxy Cinema

Lam is a naughty dreaming girl who has a big heritage from her parents. She always dreams of being a singer and because of luxurious lifestyle, she faces off bankrupt problem. To save her situation, she helplessly plans a musical liveshow – Megastar

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher


We got an interesting notification in our inboxes from an up-and-coming U.K. band called Melodramas. Matt Woolway from the band tells us they’ll be playing Apocalypse Now on February 4. The show falls on the cusp of Melodramas’ reign as CMJ magazine’s Band of the Week. Melodramas released their debut EP, Epone, last year before heading out in October to play Kuwait and Australia and heading back to support The New York Dolls at their show at Talking Heads in Southampton. They’ll be headlining the gig in HCM City, supported by local rock acts Unlimited and Microwave. The show kicks off at 8pm.

You can check out Melodramas before they hit Saigon on their MySpace page.

The event is being organised by Tiger Beer’s cross-cultural creative platform, Tiger Translate. The initiative highlights Asia’s brightest creatives and facilitates collaboration with Western partners through a series of events, exhibitions and publications. Tiger Translate hosted My Chemical Romance in HCM City back in January 2008.

The crew behind dOSe have been throwing some of HCM City’s biggest soirees for over two years, but they’re especially excited for this one: world-renowned house DJ jojoflores will be headlining their latest party, at the Cage (3A Ton Duc Thang) on February 6.

The Montreal native is known to house-heads as the “mixtape king” thanks to his “Think” mix series, and has been voted Best International House DJ four years running by NYC’s Undaground Archives. The globetrotting DJ has residencies at nightclubs around the world, including Cielo in NYC, and has thrown his “Therapy” parties in cities from Capetown to San Francisco.

Admission is 100,000 VND before 10pm, and 200,000 VND afterwards.  Look out for free CDs and other giveaways, as well as an after party TBA. The dOSe crew, DJ’s Slide, Edge and B’all, support. For more information, email and check out

Last year, two DJs by the names of Superkid and White Pigeon began spinning a curious blend of indie rock, discopunk, soul, 80s new wave, 60s girl rock, international pop and whatever the hell else struck them as dance-able at Ho Chi Minh City’s monthly Everyone’s a DJ party. After a few months off, they’re back in the booth to preside over the dance party on January 30 at The Factory (102 Mac Thi Buoi) from 10pm til late.

From their humble origins at Cyclo Bar, they gathered a following and began playing The Cage, which became notorious for giant, sparkly prop letters that spelled out D-A-N-C-E and left you picking glitter off of your face for days on end. And then there was the spontaneous choreography.

Full Disclosure: DJ White Pigeon is one of AsiaLIFE‘s bearded editors, but we’re not telling which one. See you at the show.

Anyone who runs a blog knows you have to regularly check what keywords people are using to find their way to your blog. We looked at our blog stats this morning and found that someone had arrived at our site by entering the phrase “every picture of ngo thanh van taken.” Ngo Thanh Van is the co-star of The Clash, and sure enough, we’re the number three listed result on Google for this slightly creepy query. Not surprising, as we’re probably one of the only publications that writes about Vietnamese film in English regularly. However, our delight that people are finding the blog was somewhat overshadowed by the fear that we may be abetting a deranged fan currently in the process of building his stalker wall. Here’s hoping it’s just a very zealous and harmless teenage boy who simply has yet to refine his boolean skills.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

Surfing in Vietnam

January 16, 2010

In December’s AsiaLIFE (issue 21), we printed an article by Clint Lambert on the resurgence of surfing in Vietnam in Hoi An and on the stretch of the Central Coast in Danang nicknamed “China Beach” by American G.I.s during the war. The article mostly focused on the efforts of Aussie expat Dave Spencer and the newly formed Danang Surf Club to jump start the surf scene, but also touched on the Vietnam Veterans Longboard Society (VVLS), a group of surfers and veterans that formed after the release of Between the Lines, a documentary that follows the lives of two surfers: one who went to war and another who dodged the draft and took refuge on the beaches of Hawaii.

Check out the trailer for Between the Lines below. The film can be ordered from the official website.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

Dear Mr. DiChristopher

I read and continue to read your magazine with considerable enthusiasm. The articles show the ever changing landscape, infrastructure and vibrance of Vietnam, bringing  this to the  front door of the lazy traveller ( of which I am one).  Your article in Volume 22 covering urban archaeology was particularly interesting and while I have seen over the years,  some of these older images of HCMC/Vietnam, wonder if you  know where perhaps one could purchase such images,  as well as any  old maps of the city?

Any assistance, views and/or contacts on this  would be very much appreciated.

Richard Skene

Thanks for the positive words, Richard. First off, I should let you know that Mr. DiChristopher is my father … you can call me Tom.

As for the vintage postcards, many of the shots we featured in the Urban Archaeology story came from the private collection of Philippe Chaplain, which can be found on his website, We also turned to Caravelle Saigon: A History, which was released in September to mark the Caravelle Hotel’s 50th anniversary. We did, however, go to vintage bookstore and newstand Bookazine at 28 Dong Khoi for some old photographs (mostly personal snapshots) and old flyers.

We asked another of our Ho Chi Minh City Historians, Thomas Hutchings for advise, and he too pointed us to online resources, particularly Belle Indochine. He also had this advice:

Another way to find old photos is to use the search term in google “saigon ngay xua.” This will return hits with old photos. It’s best after getting the hits to click on images, then go down to various photos and click on any of those. One will thus find even more photos. A knowledge of Vietnamese is not necessary. However, when hits return and the diacritical marks are shown over the term “Saigon ngay xua,” then copy and paste the phrase with the marks and use that as a search term. It will return even more possible sites of old postcards and photos.

So I’m not sure if we answered your query about where to get physical postcards, Richard. Perhaps some of our readers might know. Anyone out there care to leave a comment on where to find vintage postcards of Saigon?

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher