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Painting simple things beautifully a challenge



More than 50 watercolor paintings by artist Hong Quan were exhibited in Ho Chi Minh City this month. Looking at the paintings, visitors could feel like they have been transported back to their own hometowns, as the artworks depict everyday life in all three regions of Vietnam.

The event at Hawaii Art Space at 5A/2 Tran Phu Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City is the fourth exhibition of watercolors by Hong Quan.

The paintings were on display for art-loving visitors until August 15.

The artist’s three previous exhibitions were titled Sông nước miền Tây (Mekong Delta Rivers) in 2019, Những gì yêu thương nhất (The Most Affectionate) in 2022, and Ngày nắng (Sunny Days) in 2023.

Gentle and delicate works of art

Hong Quan’s paintings give an impression of peaceful, friendly, and very affectionate things.

He depicts universal and simple matters in nature, society, and people’s lives. 

The familiar and nostalgic feelings that the watercolors evoke in visitors seem to free them from their everyday worries and to return them to their hometowns for a while.

Nhà và ghe trên sông Hậu (Houses and boats on the Hau River) by artist Hong Quan

‘Nhà và ghe trên sông Hậu’ (Houses and Boats on the Hau River) by artist Hong Quan

In the painting Nhà và ghe trên sông Hậu (Houses and Boats on the Hau River), visitors see familiar images of the Mekong Delta region.

In Vùng biển xanh (Blue Sea), they see fishermen chatting after returning from fishing trips.

They can also enjoy the scenery of fresh green nature in Mùa mận chín (The Season of Ripe Plums) and Ngày nắng đẹp (Beautiful Sunny Day). 

In addition, the artist displayed a painting recalling the terrible days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but from a positive point of view in Nhà thuốc thời COVID-19 (The Pharmacy in the COVID-19 Pandemic). 

Indeed, it is a challenge to draw simple things beautifully.

As an artist who was formally trained to draw with oil paints, Hong Quan took advantage of his strong ability in descriptive geometry when he switched to painting with watercolors.

Thanks to this strength, he can express his feelings and emotions in a delicate way.

An old saying goes that you learn more about an artist by looking at his paintings.

Hong Quan’s paintings immerse visitors in an endearing, affordable, friendly, and generous world, all considered a popular view of people in the southern part of Vietnam.

A very realistic description of life, Hong Quan’s paintings are full of positive energy, without negative feelings, as is often the case with other artists on such subjects.

Bucking the trend to find simple beauty

Nguyen Trung Tin, vice-president of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association in charge of the southern region, said Hong Quan has brought visitors back to the values of the old days through his own view of the simple beauty of life against the backdrop of new movements in painting.

Artist Hong Quan stands in front of his watercolors at the exhibition. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre

Artist Hong Quan stands in front of his watercolors at the exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre

It is his own style of art, which can be seen as a decision against popular trends, which captured the attention of visitors through the way he expresses his thoughts and souls via a simple but thorough painting approach.

“I especially admire artist Hong Quan for his diligence, concentration, and meticulous skill. He has traveled to so many places and led a life of interesting change,” Tin said on the opening day of the exhibition.

“His watercolors are like a travel blog in which he records his impressions and emotions during his visits to different places in the country.”

Tin believed that although Hong Quan uses watercolors as his painting material, he does not paint quickly or hastily.

On the contrary, he paints slowly and carefully, with each stroke and layer of color, just as he used to do with oil paintings.

Perhaps this will allow Hong Quan to establish a different style in Ho Chi Minh City, where watercolor painting has mushroomed in recent years.

A visitor looks at a painting in Hong Quan’s exhibition. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre

A visitor looks at a painting at Hong Quan’s exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre

The new Hawaii Art Space exhibition center was opened in the hope of becoming a meeting place for artists and art collectors in Vietnam.

“We are trying to help young and new artists to show their artworks to the public,” said Minh Tram, a representative of Hawaii Art Space.

“In the future, we hope the center will become a haunt of culture and creative enthusiasts, especially the younger generation.”

Ngày nắng lên (Sunny day) by artist Hong Quan

‘Ngày nắng lên’ (Sunny Day) by artist Hong Quan

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Your Vietnam

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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Your Vietnam

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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