Across Asia Youth Film Festival – Submit your film today!

By: City Pass Guide

For the first time, the Across Asia Youth Film Festival (AAYFF) is coming to Vietnam. After the first two editions were held in Singapore, the third festival will take place at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC), presenting an exciting opportunity for both student filmmakers and film fans.

Founded in 2017 in order to give young filmmakers a chance to connect with people across the continent, AAYFF has attracted partnerships with some of the world’s top media and film companies, including HBO, Disney and Lucasfilm.

The festival will bring together students from three age groups creating films across seven categories: drama, horror, animation, documentary, experimental, music video and short short.

David Procter, AAYFF’s founder, shared his joy at the festival’s arrival in Vietnam. “I’m really excited that the AAYFF has moved to Vietnam, where it can take in the rich culture of one of the most rapidly developing countries in Asia”, he said. “The festival has already seen a number of winning films from students in Vietnam, but I’m looking forward to seeing more submissions from the country this year. The AAYFF also provides a wonderful opportunity for the media and film industry in Vietnam to get involved with supporting youth film”.

This is also a symbol of ISHCMC’s forward-thinking mission to connect students with the international community, while also bringing innovative programmes to Ho Chi Minh City.


5 Fantastic Hidden Getaways in Vietnam

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnam is, of course, packed with wonderful, exciting destinations for us all to get away from the city on occasion and enjoy. So many have become known throughout the world, The Mekong Delta, Halong Bay and Sapa for example. Many others are not as well known unless you live here, Hoi An, Dalat and Vung Tau spring to mind. But what of the places that remain relatively unknown to even many people living here in Ho Chi Minh City. If you are looking for some hidden getaways in Vietnam, here are a few suggestions for places that could be on your radar for 2016.

Phan Rang

Phan Rang is situated on Vietnam’s South Central Coast about 90km south of Nha Trang. It’s a new town that was called Panduranga in ancient times. This was a state capital in the old Champa Kingdom. An airfield was established here by the Japanese, utilised by the French and then became the US Air Force’s Phan Rang Air Base during the American War. The beach is excellent; early in the morning it will be packed as literally thousands of local people come to exercise. By 8am they will all have disappeared and you have the place to yourself, it’s truly magical. There is a new monastery complex close by on a hill affording amazing views. Also close at hand are two 700 year old Cham Temples. This is part of a triangle for tourism that includes Dalat to the north west and Nha Trang to the north, yet somehow remains relatively undiscovered. This is a true Vietnamese fishing village.

Vinh Hy

Just 30km up the coast from Phan Rang you will find the beautiful unspoiled bay of Vinh Hy. It has remained untouched mainly because of its proximity to the Nui Chua National Park. Fears were raised when Amanoi announced their plans to open the Amanoi Resort Vinh Hy Bay in 2013, but they have done a tremendous job. The design has had minimal adverse affect on the wonderful scenic beauty off the area, whilst bringing in much needed revenue. The scenery here is amazing, crystal clear blues seas with lush greenery rolling down rocky outcrops into the water; whilst all the time the mountains out towards Dalat provide the backdrop.

Long Hai

Long Hai was almost completely unknown until the Long Hai Beach Resort opened. It remains, though, a very peaceful spot especially during the week. It is just around the headland from Vung Tau and if the better known resort is all a bit too “bright lights” for your liking, then Long Hai should be right up your street. The beach gets busier at the weekends when many Vietnamese getting away from Ho Chi Minh City come to town. As the road from from HCMC to Ho Tram and beyond continues to be improved these places will become busier, but for now you can enjoy the white sand and unique weather, almost unhindered. The weather is unique, by the way, because this area has its own micro climate, making it dryer than the rest of the South.

Mai Chau

Mai Chau is the name of both a district and its main city in northern Vietnam. Whilst the stunning scenery of Mai Chau is starting to draw tourists, its locality ensures that it never gets overrun and spoiled. This scenic mountainous region is about 135km to the southwest of Hanoi. It is a quiet rural community where the local Black Thai and White Thai live in traditional stilt houses. The houses are dotted throughout the landscape, generally surrounded by trees. The Mountains provide the perfect backdrop and the mixture of cultivated and uncultivated land completes a very delightful scenic picture. Of course it also has the advantage of cooler air, for those who are fed up with the intense heat of Ho Chi Minh City. Mai Chau certainly firgures as one of the best hidden getaways in Vietnam.

Phuoc Hai

Phuoc Hai is also close to Vung Tau but much less well known. Just 90km away from Ho Chi Minh City, It has often been overlooked. The highlights here are beautiful beaches, great hills for walking, terrific seafood and one of the country’s more unique attractions. The Whale Cemetery is situated here. Fisherman have always held the whale as an almost mythical being and a bringer of good luck. When one dies here, either stranded on the beach or caught accidentally in a net. They bring the creature through the streets of Bung Tau and in Phuoc Hai. The animal is buried after a ceremony and months later the bones are exhumed and moved to a permanent resting place. This is a quiet little town yet has plenty to see and do.

Do you know any terrific hidden getaways in Vietnam? If so let us know. This is such a wonderful country and there is so much to explore.


Best Yoga Studios in Saigon

By: Brennan Lagman

When it comes to healing, strengthening, and opening your body to untapped physical potential, yoga is a practice worth every penny! And there are plenty of options right here in Ho Chi Minh City.

Yoga saigonImage source: innatthecove.com

YogaHaus+

Location: 106 Street No. 2, Cư Xá Đô Thành, Ward 4, District 3, HCMC 
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 21:30 a.m.
Styles: Vinyasa, Hatha, Acro, Ashtanga yoga
Levels: All
Price: $

If you are looking for an intimate, affordable, no-fluff yoga practice with small class sizes, YogaHaus+ yoga studio is a perfect choice in HCMC. Daytime hours are very limited in this young studio that opened in 2017, but the schedule suits exercise in the evening.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/YogaHausPlus

In 2017, Tram Le, a hard-working businesswoman and entrepreneur, started YogaHaus+ to share her passion for yoga.

The studio is straightforward: one large room with mirrors, mats and basic yoga props.

“If you are looking for a spa, go to an elite studio. If you are coming for yoga, I am here to share my passion”, Tram said. Come to YogaHaus+ to work with one of the best yoga teachers in Saigon with years of Vinyasa, Hatha, Acro yoga and fitness experience.

Yoga Living

Studio 1: B building, ITAXA House, 19 Võ Văn Tần, D. 3, HCMC 
Studio 2: 11B Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, D. 1, HCMC 
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7:35 p.m.
Styles: Hatha (variety), Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power yoga, yoga teacher training and more.
Levels: All
Price: $$

In terms of the variety of classes, affordability and locations, Yoga Living is one of the best yoga studios Saigon has to offer. It is one of the first large yoga studios in HCMC to serve a wide variety of clients. There are two studios on either end of District 1. Teachers usually teach at both, so if one studio is not accessible, you can still catch the teacher you love.

The Võ Văn Tần Studio has three large classrooms that can accommodate 50+ students. Classes get rather full during peak hours, but luckily the class schedule changes every week providing plenty of options from open to close. Enter either studio and you are greeted by the sound of relaxing zen music and a smiling Yoga Living employee guides you where you need to go.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/YogaLivingStudio

The rotating schedule includes everything from high-intensity fat burning flows to gentle and restorative classes in Vietnamese and English. This is a great option for people to try a variety of class styles and yoga teachers to find what fits their body best.

The facilities are simple and include lockers, showers, complimentary water, mats and towels.

Yoga Pod

Location: 28 Thảo Điền, Ward Thảo Điền, D. 2, HCMC 
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Types: Vinyasa, Hatha (Variety), Restorative, Yin yoga
Levels: All
Price: $$$

Tucked away in a secret green haven in Thảo Điền, this yoga studio feels like a magic portal to the natural landscape of old Saigon. To find it, you have to wander past a beautiful family garden with open grass. It is easily the best yoga studio for reconnecting with the elements in Ho Chi Minh City.

Yoga saigonImage source: tripadvisor.com

The small space includes two classrooms for up to 20 people that connect patrons to the surrounding nature. There are simple facilities that boast an all-natural, earthy ambience to match the environment. Bathrooms, showers, lockers, towels and mats are included.

The owners of Yoga pod maintain a rotating variety of classes so clients can experience different teachers, philosophies and practices.

Mandala Wellness

Location: 41 Trần Ngọc Diện, Ward Thảo Điền, D. 2, HCMC  
Hours: (Variable)
Types: Vinyasa, Hatha (Variety), Qi Gong, Tai Chi, yoga for Older Bodies, Reiki Healing, Sound Bowl healing, Meditation
Levels: All
Prices: $$$

Mandala Wellness is much more than a yoga studio. Founded by two mothers looking to provide a holistic wellness sanctuary, this centre is dedicated to giving back to the community by “empowering [people] from within.”

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/mandalawellnessvn

Mandala is a top-tier wellness retreat and yoga studio perfectly located in a Thảo Điền villa, just far enough from the noise of the city. When you enter the driveway, you are greeted by a lovely garden that wraps around a stunning white, vine-covered façade. The facilities include bathrooms, showers, lockers, a juice bar, counselling and therapy rooms, and two classrooms for up to 40 people at a time.

When it comes to the restorative aspect of yoga, this one-of-a-kind HCMC studio is unrivalled. Apart from some of the more popular types of yoga, Mandala offers many services including counselling, reiki healing, meditation, sports-therapy, Tai Chi and more.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/mandalawellnessvn

Yoga Sculpt and Shape (SNS)

Location: 3 Võ Văn Tần, Ward 6, D. 3, HCMC 
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Types: Advanced, Prenatal, Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga yoga and more.
Levels: All
Price: $$$ 

Yoga Sculpt and Shape is one of the pioneers of yoga in Saigon. It is on the 16th floor of a high-rise, nested high above the noise of the city centre.

Besides an impressive history and height, what makes the studio stand out is its advanced level of yoga training. It has produced some of the most famous names from the Vietnamese yoga scene and still attracts master level yoga teachers from around the globe.

Yoga saigonImage source: Yoga SnS Studio

The studio is simple, with two large classrooms and basic facilities. Class sizes can contain up to 40 students, but smaller advanced groups and private sessions are also common. It boasts mid-high level pricing, but is worth the money for a world-class yoga training experience.

Yoga Plus

Studio 1: Plus Yoga Center Aeon Mall Bình Tân, 2nd Floor, No. 01 Road No. 17A, Quarter 11, Ward Bình Trị Đông B, Bình Tân District, HCMC      
Studio 2: Plus Yoga Center Thảo Điền Pearl Plaza, 3rd floor, 12 Quốc Hương, Ward Thảo Điền, District 2, HCMC   
Hours: 6:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m
Types: Over 20 yoga types + Aerial, Pilates,
Levels: All
Price: $$$$

When it comes to luxury, world-class facilities, high-end equipment and specialised yoga training, nothing compares to Yoga Plus. Owned by the same company as UFC Gym, Yoga Plus offers up to 22 different types of yoga in their two Saigon studios, with highly trained professional yoga teachers from around the world.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/yogaplusvn

The modern facilities ring of elegance from ceiling to floor. The lobby boasts large ottomans complete with pillows, ambient lighting and music, a small yoga shop and juice bar. Clients can find themselves practising in large, naturally lit classrooms or in specially designed private rooms for one-on-one instruction.

Almost every yoga niche can be found here, as the studio contains every yoga and Pilates prop imaginable. Locker rooms include saunas, steam rooms, showers and hair dryers.

Banner Image source: hellobacsi.com


Top 10 Most Fun Things to Learn in HCMC

By: Kristian Goodchild

There are so many opportunities to learn something new in good ol’ Vietnam. Here are some of the top activities offered in HCMC that will let you have fun while gaining new skills.

Learn How to Play in a Rock Band

643 Dien Bien Phu, D3 | maximusmusicschool@gmail.com | +84 91 952 2593; +84 93 818 8309

Learning a musical instrument always seems to be one of those things that everyone wants to do but rarely have the initiative to stick with. One problem is that at the early stages it’s a solitary experience: practising on your own is nothing like the fun of playing with a full band. It’s no wonder people get disillusioned.

learn to play in rock band

So, why not get your band together first and learn as you go? Maximus offers group deals for exactly that reason. With a full band setup and expert tuition, you can get together, learn together and rock together.

Master the Art of Storytelling

Join the group at facebook.com/groups/StorytellingSaigon

You tell stories every day, whether you’re recounting the day’s events to your friends or explaining a situation to a stranger. To take this one step further, a storytelling class can help you hone your skills and learn the fundamentals of structure, narrative and character development. Storytelling Saigon gives you and your friends the opportunity to develop your raconteur skills in a safe, easy environment, tailored to nurture your inner narrator and bring out the best you have to say.

Tell a Joke

Stay up to date at facebook.com/comedysaigon and comedysaigon.com

Stand up comedy is a strange business. You never know what an audience is going to like until you try it, and the people who are funniest in social situations aren’t necessarily going to succeed on stage. But it’s something that anyone with an inclination towards telling jokes should try, and it’s something that almost everyone has considered at one point or another. So, think you’re funny? Now you can find out with the help of Comedy Saigon. Founder Ben Betterby organises free workshops and shows across the city every week.

tell a joke

Get your foot on the bottom rung and try out your inner genius. Regular competitions, workshops and prizes will keep you motivated, and expert tutors will guide you through the process with skill and compassion. You’ll be working the circuit in no time.

Cook as a Team

74/7 Hai Ba Trung, D1 | contact@saigoncookingclass.com | +84 28 3825 8485

Another definitely social activity that for some reason people learn on their own is cooking. So central to daily life, so fundamentally social at every step of the process, cooking brings us together. So why not learn it together? Gather your friends, make a booking and learn to make delicious traditional Vietnamese food with some of the best chefs in Saigon at Saigon Cooking Class.

Align Your Chakras

justbeyogashala.com | missbee@justbeyogashala.com | +84 122 870 9396

Yoga has been one of the fastest-growing physical activities of the last decade, and for good reason. It’s fantastic for your body, it’s low impact (so anyone can do it), and it teaches you about your body, mind and soul. A good instructor is key to your success, though, and there is none better than Yoga with Bee.

yoga with bee

A fitness guru and writer, Bee has been teaching yoga for the last two years. As a certified personal trainer, Bee uses yoga as one modality to keep both the body and mind balanced and flexible. Group sessions must be booked privately, so get in touch and make it happen; your body will thank you.

Learn About Latte Art

270a Ly Thuong Kiet, D10 | cs@baristaschool.vn | +84 90 290 6246

Let’s face it: artisanal coffee isn’t going away anytime soon. The difference between a cup of Nescafé and a properly brewed flat white made with well-sourced, roasted and ground beans is huge. And what’s more, the skill and craft that goes into a perfectly poured cappuccino is truly a work of art. At the Barista School, you and your friends can learn the secrets behind a well-crafted macchiato. Contact the school to discuss group packages – you’ll never taste coffee the same way again.

Get into Character

saigonplayers@gmail.com  | +84 90 795 4093

There may be no better way to learn about oneself than to learn how to act like someone else. Saigon Players, the city’s premier community theater, is always looking for new members, and consistently put on high-quality productions. Join the group and you’ll receive peer-based coaching, instruction and feedback, helping you to realise your dreams of becoming Vietnam’s next Al Pacino or Meryl Streep. You’ll also get the chance to perform live, meet new people and explore the rich world of the thespian.

Arrange Some Natural Beauty

55/6 Le Thi Hong Gam, D1 | facebook.com/padma.de.fleur | +84 90 300 9873

Anyone who’s walked around Vietnam long enough will have noticed the dazzling array of beautiful flora throughout the country. Even if you haven't seen the wild lotus, lilies or trees around the countryside, the markets of HCMC are often full of the colours and smells of one of the richest ranges of flowers in the world. So, what better place to learn flower arranging? Get your friends together and arrange a class at Padma de Fleur to learn a skill that will provide you with a lifetime of beauty.

arrange flower

Learn to Paint, Get Tipsy

21 Nguyen Trung Ngan, D1 | contact@tipsyart.vn | +84 289 853 3254

The creation and appreciation of art awakens something profound in the soul, leaving you intoxicated by life’s majesty and wonder – much like how you probably feel after a bottle of wine. So, what better way to celebrate two of life’s wonders than by getting sloshed and attempting to paint something? If that sounds like something you’d like (and it certainly should be), Tipsy Art is the group for you. Reasonably priced and – obviously – for adults only, Tipsy Art provides all the booze, paint and canvas you need to untap your inner Vincent Van Gogh, minus the absinthe.

Make Some Dishware

66 Nguyen Ngoc Phuong, Binh Thanh District | info@gomxoay.com | +84 93 342 1987

Pottery, the fascinating, ancient craft that has been central to human development for millennia, is a fascinating and humbling art. Working clay on a wheel or by hand is an enriching experience. It also allows you to recreate that scene from Ghost… it’s not mandatory, but it’s an option. Gom Xoay offers fantastic group lesson packages that can teach you and your friends how to create your own masterpieces and, of course, take them home.

 


Soul Man: Mark Bell Fine-Tunes Saigon Music Classes

By: Frank B. Edwards

Six days a week, Canadian educator Mark Bell rides a scooter to District 3’s Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy (SMPAA), determined to change the course of music lessons in HCMC.

His strategy is simple: teach children to play music by winning their hearts instead of rapping their knuckles.

Midway through his first year as principal of the revolutionary music school, the 56-year-old church organist, choral leader and passionate teacher is excited about his mission to shape a new generation of Vietnamese musicians by teaching them in a softer and friendlier fashion.

The Soul music building

He calls his courtyard campus at 214-216 Pasteur an oasis for children where they can study music and dance in a way that will inspire them throughout their lives. There are no teacher tantrums here, and the only raised voices heard are those lifted in song.

While we’re teaching music and the arts, we’re also developing a generation with a different outlook and way of being,” he says. “Yes, we’re informal but (also) formative. It’s about celebrating where you are and where you can be.

Now in its fifth year, the Soul Academy is the brainchild of 33-year-old Thanh Bui, an Australian-born Vietnamese pop star who moved his musical career to HCMC in 2010. A natural teacher with no formal training, Thanh recruited Mark to strengthen the teaching credentials of his academy.

They met by chance at District 7’s Canadian International School, where Mark was the elementary principal. Having arrived early to speak at a rhinoceros conservation rally, Thanh was invited to wait in Mark’s office. It didn’t take long for Thanh to discover his host’s passion for music education. Meanwhile, Mark learned of his young visitor’s pop-star status when the students went ballistic as Thanh entered the school auditorium.

Happy boy dancing SOUL Music ho chi minh

Months later, Mark agreed to run an educational training course for the musicians Thanh had recruited as SMPAA teachers, and later signed on as full-time principal of the academy.

Today, SMPAA has about 600 students from age four to adult, studying voice, instrumental music and dance in the evenings and weekends. While much of the curriculum is contemporary, classical training is also offered. Students wanting a taste of public performance can audition for a number of enrichment programs, including a popular dance troupe known as The Young Lyricist, whose members serve as inspirational ambassadors of the arts for young Vietnamese.

 

The HCMC campus now consists of three elegant heritage houses crammed with studios, classrooms and performance spaces, and there are two more buildings in the planning stage. Mark’s office is located between two drum studios whose walls do not quite shut out the sound of nine-year-old drum-kit phenomenon Trong Nhan.

Mark understands the rewards of musical success as well as the sacrifices parents make for their families. The youngest of six children whose father worked three jobs, Mark was allowed to take piano lessons after a neighbour realised he was teaching himself music by replicating her young daughter’s weekly lessons.

Happy girl at Soul Music and performing Arts Academy

During a summer job cutting grass at a famous Catholic institution near his village home, he met a Jesuit brother who taught him to play the church’s classic pipe organ. A few years later, at age 16, he became the organist at Canada’s famous National Martyrs’ Shrine in Huronia – and its director of music, a position he held through high school and university. At 24, Mark was made executive coordinator of music for Pope John Paul II’s visit to bless the shrine. Part of his job was to amass a 700-voice choir for the visit that attracted a congregation of 70,000.

 

Later, Mark filled his spare time as a church organist and directing community and church choirs in Toronto, and studied to become a teacher before becoming a principal. Today his passion is teaching children to sing and SMPAA is giving him the chance to work directly with young singers again.

He and Thanh are influencing a new style of popular music by moving students away from the popular Korean sound that has saturated the country.

We’re training people who want to be professional musical performers in this country,” Mark says. “And maybe do it in a different way... we are definitely rooted in Vietnam and Vietnamese culture.

Taking a visitor on a tour of the Soul Academy, Mark points out the encouraging slogans and quotes that adorn the walls. He pauses at a neon sign that spells out “Soul Live Project”.

That’s what it’s about,” he muses. “It’s all about soul.


Magners International Comedy Festival 2016 Comes to Saigon

By: Zoe Osborne

If you’re the kind of person who likes to be very childish about adult things, then this is the comedy show for you. Magners, the popular producer of Irish cider, is bringing the best of upcoming international comedy exclusively to Southeast Asia this year for an explosion of topical humour, political jabs and dirty jokes. Just for us!

The Magners International Comedy Festival 2016 will be the next big thing on the comedy scene across the Golden Triangle. This March it is coming to Saigon.

Source: ticketbox.vn/event/the-magners-international-comedy-festival-60016/34085

The lineup for this year’s festival is a true cocktail of international tastes - from British wit to Canadian slurs, and our local favourites from Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. Twenty artists will be performing, many making their debut in Asia. Some of the performers have already displayed their talents with a number of high-profile appearances, such as on David Letterman, Jay Leno and various international comedy festivals.

Photo: facebook.com/saigonranger

Vietnam’s English speakers are no strangers to a good laugh. Both tasteful and wondrously raucous humour are well established in this country, thanks to Saigon International Comedy, Stand-Up-Saigon, the Hanoi Comedy Collective as well as local open mic nights around the country.

To kick off the festival, popular nightlife hotspot Saigon Ranger will be hosting the Big V Comedy Competition on Tuesday, March 15. The show will feature headliner Columbian Irish UK comic Matthew Giffen - an explosive gent with an excellent moustache - as well as three local amateur comedians competing on the Big V stage before a panel of Canadian professionals, with VND 10 million of prize money ready to be won, taken and enjoyed by whoever makes us giggle the most.

Source: twitter.com/martinmorcomedy

Hosted by Northern Irish comedian Martin Mor, the Big V is the ideal kick-off for the Magners International Comedy Festival, and a wake-up call for all you sleeping lions out there. Get up, get ready, and come on down for a night of serious frivolity.


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