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Getting back to nature with camping trips to Đồng Nai



Bầu Islet is a favourite campsite on Trị An Lake. — Photo

ĐỒNG NAI  Đồng Nai Province has recently become a new destination for people who love camping and exploring the beauty of nature.

Trị An Lake, one of the largest artificial lakes in Southeast Asia, is popular as a familiar camping area for travellers from the city and neighbouring provinces.

Located on the Đồng Nai River, the lake is the reservoir of the Tri An hydropower plant.

It has an area of 32,400ha and 72 islets, which are ideal for camping.  

People can camp around the lake shores or at islets on the lake, such as Bầu (Gourd) and Ó (Eagle).

There are places for pitching tents, burning campfires, and going fishing.

Travellers can enjoy the beauty of sunset and sunrise on the lake.

“What I like most about the lake is that the atmosphere is fresh and peaceful. It helps me to forget worries and tiredness of daily life,” said Nguyễn Ngọc Nguyên of Đồng Nai.

“My friends and I have joyful days and took beautiful photos.”

Visitors can go kayaking on Trị An Lake. — Photo

For families with small children, they can choose homestays near the lake like Bà Đất Eco Homestay, and Cao Minh Colorland tourism area, offering many services to visitors from bicycles to kayaks.

Near Trị An Lake is Chứa Chan Mountain, the second-highest mountain in the southeastern region.

Located in Xuân Lộc District, the mountain, also known as “miniature Đà Lạt”, has a cool and fresh climate all year round, which is suitable for camping and trekking.

Travellers have to park their vehicles at the foot of the mountain, and then climb around two or four hours to the camping sites in the middle of the top of the mountain.

It is a long climb, but it is worth it.

The camping sites surrounded by fields of reeds are beautiful, while the view from the mountain is fantastic.

When having an overnight camping, people have the opportunity to see a sky full of stars, a rare sight in urban areas.

Campers will be overwhelmed by a sea of clouds on Chứa Chan Mountain in the early morning. — Photo

When getting up early, campers can see the beauty of the sunrise, and be overwhelmed by a sea of clouds before their eyes.

Lê Thanh Xuân of Đồng Nai said: “The landscape on Chứa Chan Mountain is incredible. It’s the first time I have seen a sea of clouds in my lifetime.”

“For those who want to go camping at Chứa Chan Mountain, be well-prepared before your trips because you can’t find anything on the mountain except for wonderful landscape.” 



Vietnamese descendant wins record $4.56mn in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’



Mai Whelan, a 55-year-old woman of Vietnamese descent, recently emerged victorious in the inaugural season of streaming pioneer Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge,’ securing a cash prize of US$4.56 million, the highest in reality TV history.

Following nine intense episodes, the reality competition unveiled its ultimate victor among 456 participants.

Whelan, who is currently residing in the U.S. state of Virginia, was named the winner in the final episode that aired on Wednesday.

A reality series adapted from the 2021 South Korean blockbuster drama ‘Squid Game,’ it engaged contestants in challenges reminiscent of the original, including the iconic Red Light, Green Light, and the nerve-wracking glass bridge. 

In addition, the show intensified the challenges by eliminating the contestants or offering advantages for each episode via other novel games and rules.

Outshining 453 other competitors, three finalists — Whelan No. 287, Phill Cain No. 451, and Sam Lantz No. 016 — featured in the program’s concluding episode, engaging in two final games of chance to determine the fortunate winner. 

Eventually, Mai emerged as the lucky one, consistently triumphing in different rounds to secure the key to open the coveted prize vault containing the record-breaking prize of $4.56 million.

A scene from the Season 1 of the Netflix reality competition show ‘Squid Game: The Challenge.’ Photo: Netflix

A scene from the Season 1 of the Netflix reality competition show ‘Squid Game: The Challenge.’ Photo: Netflix

“It was a relief to go back to normal life and not worry about getting eliminated,” Whelan told Netflix’s official companion site Tudum

“I needed that after two and a half weeks of intense go, go, go, and emotional ups and downs.

“But the person that came into [the competition] is me. 

“I’m still Mai, and she hasn’t changed — except that I came out stronger.”

While winning is nice — life-changing, even — Mai is ultimately more concerned with just how far the $4.56 million could reach beyond her own backyard. 

Once she has done renovating at home, ideally including building a small dock for a boat, she is setting her sights elsewhere, according to Tudum

“My heart is with people, animals, and climate change,” she told Tudum about how she plans to spend her winnings.

Following the conclusion of the inaugural season, Studio Lambert, the producer of the show, has initiated casting for the next season, slated to air in 2024.

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Vietnamese choreographer Tan Loc introduces new contemporary ballet ‘Senzen’



A contemporary ballet that incorporates the harmonious fusion of traditional Vietnamese instruments and Japan’s Taiko drums, ‘Senzen’ marks the return of choreographer Nguyen Tan Loc and Arabesque Vietnam, a neo-classical and contemporary dance company, after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jointly organized by Arabesque Vietnam and performance art theater Saigon Concert, the gig is set for December 16 and 17 at the Municipal Theater, also known as the Saigon Opera House, in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City.

During a briefing for ‘Senzen,’ Tan Loc, the art director of the show, reflected on his past experience as an international student in Japan nearly 30 years ago, his sentiments about his profession, and the challenges he faced during the pandemic.

“After the struggle between life and death, I’ve gained an appreciation for what I have, cherishing every encounter and every opportunity to pursue my passion,” Loc said.

“A dancer must practice every day to keep in form.

“Amidst chaos, maintaining calm is essential to excel in your pursuits.”

Choreographer Tan Loc speaks at a press briefing at the Saigon Opera House in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, December 1, 2023. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Choreographer Tan Loc speaks at a press briefing at the Saigon Opera House in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, December 1, 2023. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Those inner reflections served as inspiration for him and his colleagues to create the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen’ in celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan.

The play’s title unveils themes shared by Japanese and Vietnamese cultures, where ‘sen’ symbolizes the lotus flower and ‘zen’ represents meditation.

The piece is likened to a voyage of exploring the philosophy of mindfulness, offering each individual the chance to observe and understand themselves.

The performance is meticulously curated, from stage design and lighting to the serene fusion of timpani, Japanese drums, and traditional Vietnamese musical instruments.

It involves a modest cast of seven to eight dancers but has demanded the dedication of a crew of nearly a hundred over the past six months. 

Among them are those who tirelessly commute between Vietnam and foreign countries, working both online and offline, such as choreographer Ngoc Anh.

Kensaku Satou of Japan shows his mastery with Taiko drums. Photo: Koshizuka Mitsuki

Kensaku Satou of Japan shows his mastery of Taiko drums. Photo: Koshizuka Mitsuki

The ballet will also feature the renowned Japanese drum master Kensaku Satou, who performed in prestigious events such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics closing ceremony, FIFA World Cup editions, and various international programs.

This will mark his debut in Vietnam. 

In a video message, the artist conveyed his enthusiasm and anticipation for a harmonious performance, blending Arabesque Vietnam dancers with the energetic rhythm of Japanese Taiko drums, for the Vietnamese audience.

A performance for contemporary dance lovers

Giving details on ‘Senzen,’ Tan Loc recalled his beginning as a Vietnamese student in Japan in 1994, where he received immense support from his Japanese friends, shaping him into the person he is today. 

Tan Loc also shared a special connection with dancer Chika Tatsumi, whom he met when she was just seven years old. 

Now grown up, Chika has stayed in Vietnam to dance for Arabesque Vietnam. 

Dancer Chika Tatsumi performs the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

Dancer Chika Tatsumi performs the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

The choreographer said he and his dancers, each with their unique ties to the play, have faced various challenges, including anticipated financial losses for the two upcoming performance nights. 

Despite the difficulties, Tan Loc and his colleagues continue to exert their utmost effort in ‘Senzen,’ envisioning it as a cultural and artistic bridge fostering the emotional connection between the peoples of Vietnam and Japan. 

Tan Loc also expects the play to bring harmony and empathy, not only to the artists involved but also the audience. 

While Loc expressed concerns about the selectivity of contemporary dance and the potential deterrent of the meditation theme for younger audiences, the first two premieres of ‘Senzen’ have surprisingly attracted interest from many young individuals in Generation Z and enthusiastic engagement from young TikTokers.

Dancers perform the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

Dancers perform the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

Looking ahead to 2024, Arabesque Vietnam has received orders from Saigon Concert for works for teenagers and children, the two age groups often overlooked in artistic endeavors.

Tan Loc emphasizes that the dance company’s approach will always be distinct.

“We strive to maintain our artistic identity in the eyes of the audience,” the artist stated. 

He confides that despite being questioned multiple times about the challenges and losses associated with their artistic pursuits, he persists because he believes in the transformative power of art. 

Arabesque Vietnam has contributed to the community by organizing numerous gratis shows for students in Ho Chi Minh City. 

One of those students, inspired by one of his plays, developed a deeper love for his hometown in Vietnam’s central region and dedicated themself to studying to contribute to the homeland.

Dancer Vu Minh Thu performs the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

Dancer Vu Minh Thu performs the contemporary ballet ‘Senzen.’ Photo: DaiNgoStudio

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Vietnamese war veteran a father to hundreds of orphans



With deep love for abandoned and orphaned children, Huynh Tan Hung, a war veteran living in Phu Ninh District under Quang Nam Province, located in central Vietnam, is fostering these star-crossed children.

His house has become a safe shelter for the poor kids.

The man recounted that he just wanted to land a stable job to provide for his ‘children’ and brighten their fate instead of fishing for any praise for his act of kindness.

His road to kindness has lasted for over 15 years.

A warm-hearted foster father

Located near a rice paddy, his tile-roofed house serves as a playground, study space, and sleeping quarters for these kids. 

Hung and some volunteer babysitters are busy caring for these children from morning until night.

Huynh Tan Hung. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Huynh Tan Hung. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“Vet Huynh Tan Hung is a weird man,” said Nguyen Dinh Vung, head of Tan Thinh Quarter in Phu Thinh Town under Phu Ninh District.

Over 15 years ago, a single mother in the area got Hung to take care of her ailing child so that she could leave for work.

Due to his affection for kids, many disadvantaged households sent their children to his house.

In the initial stage, they brought their kids to Hung’s home in the morning and picked them up in the evening. 

These children were attached to him, and he did not charge poor parents for looking after their children.

Subsequently, he fostered more abandoned kids.

Hung said that he is a war veteran who returned to Vietnam from Cambodia.

He lives as a compassionate individual, often extending a helping hand to those in need as a way of giving back for his life, especially considering the loss of his comrades during wartime.

Before establishing a nursing center for orphans, he had spent his money building houses for many underprivileged people. 

He has never scolded these children; instead, he treats them with tolerance and benevolence.

Consequently, they affectionately refer to him as ‘daddy.’

The orphan-raising center features several lines of rooms, including dining rooms, playgrounds, bedrooms, reading rooms, and classrooms, but it includes just a small chamber to house him.

He said that he is over 60 years old and requires nothing for himself, but his desire is to provide the best for the children under his care.

In his room, there is a sturdy mattress and a fan, while the children’s rooms are furnished with softer mattresses and air conditioners.

His kindness has garnered support from numerous volunteers who visit his center to perform household tasks, cook, clean, and take care of the children.

Dinh Thi Hong Duc, a babysitter at his center, shared that she had heard a lot about Hung’s home. However, it was not until 2014, when her child was frequently ill, that she decided to bring her kid to his house.

Thanks to his nursing skills, Hung helped Duc’s child become well again.

She is touched by the kind-hearted man, who dedicates his life as a senior citizen to looking after orphans and poor children.

As such, she asked him to allow her to share his work.

Besides Duc, some others came to his house to help Hung and his wife care for these children.

Hung’s biological children who reside in neighboring Da Nang City and other localities often buy rice, clothes, and books for the kids.

The foster children attend school daily, including university students and mature young individuals. Periodically, they return to his house to assist in caring for the other kids.

Hong Duc, a volunteer at Hung’s nursing center, takes care of a kid. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Dinh Thi Hong Duc, a volunteer at Huynh Tan Hung’s caregiving center, looks after one of the children. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The ‘father’ deserves praise 

On November 11, the chairman of the Quang Nam Province People’s Committee sent an introductory letter to the Central Emulation and Commendation Council, suggesting the recognition of Hung as a model citizen for the 2021-25 period.

According to the introductory letter, since the establishment of the center, around 200 children who were cared for at the facility have been successfully reunited with their families. Additionally, more than 200 others have grown up under the care of the center.

These children have received proper education and have been given the opportunity to attend school, with four of them having landed a job after their graduation.

Hung has helped multiple disadvantaged households in the district over the past many years.

The magnanimous man and his wife while not wealthy, sustain themselves on their pension and income from their rice fields.

Nurtured within the warmth of such a caring home, these orphans can sense the love and compassion provided by Hung, even though he is not their biological father.

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