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Former teacher breathes life into eggshells



Former teacher Nguyễn Thành Tâm has turned hundreds of eggshells into life. VNS Photo Gia Linh

By Gia Linh

A small apartment in Gò Vấp District in HCM City has long been a creativity space for former teacher Nguyễn Thành Tâm, who has spent over 20 years creating figurines out of eggshells.

Tâm’s house is packed with glass cabinets displaying his meticulous and colourful collection, including animals, movie characters, politicians, scientists, and many more.

The figurines are made mainly by using different types of eggshells, such as chicken eggs, quail eggs, and even ostrich eggs, combined with other craft materials like paper and bottle caps. Some also have tiny but diligent drawings that help express their features and emotions.

Tâm’s artistic work began in the early 2000s when he retired from full-time English teaching to do some tutoring at home.

“I had thought of using visual aids to excite my students and provide them with an interesting approach to the lessons, but it was difficult for me to find one back then, so I tried making one,” Tâm tells Việt Nam News.

He had experimented with various materials, such as cardboard and ceramics, but ended up choosing eggshells since their circular shape could resemble most parts of a human or animal body, such as heads and bellies.

A meticulous Hello Kitty model made from ostrich and duck eggshells. VNS Photo Thiên Trang

It is amazing seeing Tâm put his passion into turning thin fragile eggshells, assumed to have little to no usage, into adorable and lively figures. 

When thinking of an idea, he usually takes note of specific features and designs a 2D sketch. Depending on the design, different types of eggshells, such as chicken, quail, and even ostrich eggs, will be used.

Tâm starts his work by emptying the eggs by blowing into them, and thoroughly cleans the outside of the shells with lime juice.

According to Tâm, opening the shells properly when emptying them is the key process since a hole that is too messy or too large can affect the ultimate shape of each character.

“I usually punch a hole on each end of an egg using a needle, then cut it open using small scissors and carefully peel the shell just enough for the inside to pass through,” he says.

A layer of PVC glue mixed with fine sand is then added into the shells to minimise their fragility and create a harder surface for later colouring and drawing. Different parts of a figurine are attached using paperclay and super glue.

Tâm usually uses spray paint and nail polish when painting on eggshells, and it is important not to turn on a fan since that can hasten the drying process and make the colouring look uneven.

Depending on each character, it usually takes him hours to finish one. But Tâm says he really enjoys the long process, as he is able to find his calmness, practise his focus, and hone his innate creativity.

“When you immerse yourself in doing the things you are passionate about, time does not matter,” he says.

A Santa Claus was Tâm’s first-ever creation, and he then worked on other themes, animals, and characters with intricate designs. 

As a sports enthusiast, Tâm also enjoys re-creating the mascots of almost every sporting event, from World Cups to ASIADs and Sea Games, to show his support for them.

Tâm’s most recent work is the three mascots of the 2023 ASIAD held in China. 

One of Tâm’s recent works is a collection of three ASIAD 2023 mascots. VNS Photo Gia Linh

The mascots required Tâm to focus on several tiny details, each of which took him hours to finish. Tâm shares that he wanted to make them larger, but it was time-consuming and relatively difficult to find proper materials that could support such large figures.

It is surprising to know that Tâm performs this craftsmanship not to make an income out of it, but to fulfill his passion. What he takes pride in is the recognition from the public. 

“Having garnered compliments and attention to what I am doing is more rewarding than actually making a living out of it. I am beyond happy whenever someone pays a visit, has a look at my collections, and listens to the stories behind them,” he says.

The figurines are not solely of his imagination, but some also hold invaluable memories, so it is hard for him to put them on sale, Tâm says. 

Tâm’s years of effort were recognised in 2010 by the Vietnam Record Book Centre, which titled him “the man that makes the most eggshell figurines”.

“This opportunity is a way for me to bring this type of art around Việt Nam and to the world,” he says, adding that he also wants to pass his skills and techniques to like-minded individuals.

“Having taught many people to make eggshell figurines, I found many of them could not do it for a long time, since it is quite demanding. I still hope to have someone younger continue this artistic work,” Tâm says. VNS


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Tourists enjoy “Free walking tour” in Hải Phòng



Tourist pose for a photo at the Hải Phòng Railway Station. — Photo

HẢI PHÒNG — Every weekend the “Free Walking Tour” in Hải Phòng City attracts a large number of tourists due to its unique and captivating experiential value.

The Free Walking Tour is a travel concept offered by Vietravel Company in collaboration with the Hải Phòng Department of Tourism and Hải Phòng Railway Station. It aims to provide visitors with a “slow living” experience, allowing them to observe, feel and immerse themselves in the lives of the local people along each route.

During this tour, participants are guided by locals and provided with insights into the history, culture, architectural landmarks and the people of Hải Phòng. Additionally, they get to indulge in the culinary delights showcased on the Food Tour map.

The tour takes visitors to various attractions, including Tam Bạc Lake, the statue of General Lê Chân, a prominent figure who assisted the Trưng sisters in their resistance against foreign invaders from 40-42 AD, and the revitalised ancient An Biên Village, now known as Hải Phòng City. Other notable stops include the Hải Phòng Opera House, the City Museum and the Post Office.

Tourists enjoy a moment in Hải Phòng City. — Photo

On weekends, Hải Phòng Railway Station welcomes thousands of tourists. Visitors are provided with complimentary travel publications such as food tour maps, caps, t-shirts and promotional vouchers, enhancing their experience of dining and exploring the city.

In addition to promoting tourism through various digital platforms, the Hải Phòng Department of Tourism has launched a culinary map and a check-in location map to stimulate tourism demand. These initiatives aim to provide visitors with comprehensive tour experiences.

According to the municipal Department of Tourism, these tourism products are continuously evolving to offer tourists increasingly unique experiences during their food tours, thereby fostering a desire to revisit Hải Phòng. VNS


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Hải Phòng connects tourism with three Central Highlands provinces



Clear and peaceful beach on Monkey Island, Cát Bà Archipelago in Hải Phòng City. — Photo

HẢI PHÒNG — Hải Phòng City, in its efforts to boost tourism within the country, has established connections with three Central Highlands provinces.

According to Vũ Huy Thưởng, deputy director of Hải Phòng Department of Tourism, the city possesses several advantages in linking tourism with the Central Highlands provinces. This is made possible through the Hải Phòng – Buôn Ma Thuột route, as well as numerous flights connecting various provinces and cities nationwide.

Consequently, the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the three provinces will collaborate in promoting tourism development, enhancing coordination in showcasing and introducing destinations. Local tourism businesses will conduct research and develop products that capitalise on the unique potential and advantages of each locality. This collective effort aims to support the provinces and cities in accelerating their tourism industry’s sustainable and effective development, ultimately establishing them as alluring destinations on Việt Nam’s tourism map.

Hải Phòng City stands out due to its exceptional eco-tourism and island tourism offerings. Recognising the distinctive features of each location, fostering cooperation and partnerships with other regions becomes crucial in expanding markets and exchanging valuable insights for tourism development.

The Central Highlands, renowned for its abundant resources, boasts breathtaking landscapes and a vibrant indigenous culture. Home to 47 ethnic groups, the region holds significant cultural heritage such as the Central Highlands Gong Cultural Space, recognised as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Additionally, it hosts unique traditional festivals like the Elephant Racing Festival and Gongs Festival. VNS


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Valentin Constantinescu – a Romanian with ‘Vietnamese blood’



Trần Khánh An

Valentin Constantinescu, better known by his nickname Chiếc Tây Valentin, regards himself as “a Westerner from Romania with Vietnamese blood.” 

The Romanian man does not exaggerate or play on words – after nearly two decades in Việt Nam, he genuinely speaks Vietnamese fluently and profoundly understands this nation like a true Vietnamese.

Valentin Constantinescu, 38 years old from Romania, has lived in Việt Nam for 19 years. Photo courtesy of Valentin Constantinescu

His story with Việt Nam began in 2004 after graduating from high school, as he got a scholarship to study at the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam.

Valentin shared with Việt Nam News that he remembers vividly the heat and humidity of the ambience, as well as numerous motorcycles along the road to the student dormitory on the first day he set foot in Hà Nội.

Valentin was impressed by Hà Nội’s blend of tradition and modernity, which he described as “even more convenient than some developed countries.”

“I can go and stop anywhere, anytime on a motorbike with ease. Even shopping and dining are within easy reach,” he said.

“Even now, the payment system in Việt Nam is impressive,” Valentin added. “As bank transfers and QR code payments are more common, all you truly need to carry is a phone.”

“Vietnamese people are also friendly and hospitable. After the first week in Hà Nội, I decided I would never leave Việt Nam again.” 

Valentin led a team in “The Magic V” gameshow on VTV3 in 2022. Photo courtesy of Valentin Constantinescu

The 38-year-old now works as an English teacher and a content creator, producing content about Vietnamese culture and his experiences as an expat living in Việt Nam. This role earns him more than half a million followers on all social platforms. 

He has also participated in numerous gameshows and television programmes, winning over Vietnamese audiences with his sharp wit, conversational charm and profound knowledge of Việt Nam.

Valentin is also a chàng rể Hà Nội (Hà Nội’s son-in-law) — a term to describe a man marrying a Hà Nội’s woman. After he met his wife in 2016, Cupid immediately shot an arrow to match the couple up, and they married in 2018.

Valentin admitted that adjusting to his role as Hà Nội’s son-in-law was a bit challenging.

“My wife and I can have a loose timetable while we live together. When we visit our wife’s parents, however, we live in a more ordered manner,” he shared. 

“However, I believe that regularity and discipline in lifestyle are also unique characteristics of the Hà Nội people.”

Valentin’s seven-year multicultural marriage has given him a nuanced viewpoint of Eastern and Western traditions.

“I realise that both Eastern and Western culture are somehow constraining women,” he said.

In Việt Nam, unlike Western countries, it is not a custom that the wife must acquire her husband’s surname after marriage. However, it is a widely held belief here that when a woman marries, she is expected to care for her husband’s family more, as if her parents had lost a daughter.

“When my wife kept her Vietnamese last name, Phạm, I highly supported my wife’s decision and was so happy for her,” he recalled. 

“I also frequently encourage my wife to visit and take care of her family so that her parents do not feel like losing their daughter,” he added. 

“If I were a father, I would be happy if my daughter marries a wonderful spouse and has a happy life, rather than suffering with the pain of losing my child.”

Valentin supported his wife to keep her Vietnamese surname after marriage. Photo courtesy of Valentin Constantinescu

Due to the work change, Valentin and his wife moved to HCM City in 2018, and they miss Hà Nội weather and cuisine terribly. Hà Nội truly has cast him under its spell.

“The cold in Hà Nội and the sensation of being bundled up in layers of warm clothing, which also reminds me of Romania, is what I miss most,” Valentin recalled. 

“Southern food is a little bit sweet for me, whereas food in Hà Nội is perfect. While some may consider Hà Nội’s delicacies to be bland, the unique aspect of Hà Nội cuisine is that it empowers diners to season and customise their dishes with spices,” he added. 

Valentin and his wife both love cooking and share equal footing in the kitchen. She taught him how to prepare Vietnamese dishes, and now he could cook for their family and friends.

He prefers rolls because they are simple to prepare, as well as bordelaise sauce, which is not only a Hà Nội speciality but also reminds him of his time in Europe.

Valentin also hinted to Việt Nam News about his biggest project yet – he plans to travel across Việt Nam and spend at least a few months in each province to explore and introduce the people, culture, and cuisine.

Valentin intends to travel across Việt Nam, spending at least a few months in each province to explore and introduce the people, culture and local cuisine. Photo courtesy of Valentin Constantinescu

“I want to visit all provinces and cities across the country. I have only lived in two major cities; even when I travel, I have not completely immersed myself and lived as a native resident,” he revealed the reason behind his upcoming project.

As an expat who has lived in Việt Nam for nearly two decades, he is also confident that his unique viewpoint and extensive knowledge of his content can enrich the visitors’ experience compared to other foreign travelling vloggers – who may spend just a few weeks in Việt Nam. 

“I hope my videos will offer the audience valuable insights into local customs, culture, and cuisine, proving that Việt Nam is a place worth living.” VNS


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