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Vietnam confirms opening day of 31st SEA Games



The Government has officially approved the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s proposal to host the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Vietnam from May 12-23, 2022.

Việt Nam chốt ngày khai mạc SEA Games 31

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has directed the Hanoi People’s Committee to preside over and coordinate with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and relevant agencies to prepare and organize the opening and closing ceremonies of the 31st SEA Games in a safe and cost-saving manner.

He emphasized that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism must coordinate with the Ministry of Health, the Hanoi People’s Committee and relevant agencies to work out an organization plan for the 31st SEA Games in accordance with the Covid-19 epidemic situation.

Deputy head of the General Department of Sports and Physical Training Tran Duc Phan said that the 31st SEA Games will not coincide with major sports events in the region and the world in 2022 such as the Winter Olympic Games (February 2022); Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games (March 2022); Commonwealth Games (July 2022); and Asian Games (September 2022).

Moreover, the schedule is also suitable for Cambodia to have enough time to prepare for the 32nd SEA Games that will take place in Phnom Penh from May 5 to 17, 2023.

Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Vietnam has decided not to host the 11 Southeast Asia Para Games.

The 31st SEA Games will have 40 sport events, totaling 525 categories. The games will be held in Hanoi and 11 northern provinces and cities, including Bac Ninh, Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh, Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho, and Bac Giang.

Diep Chi



Poet desires to conquer new creative peaks



After recovering from illness, journalist-poet Hồng Thanh Quang plans to hold a special night of poetry and music ‘Vẫn nguyên là nỗi khát’ (Still Desire) on September 4 at the Hà Nội Opera House. Through poetry and music, he wants to spread inspiration in life itself. He talks with Ngô Minh.

Poet Hồng Thanh Quang said poetry is his reason to live. Photo courtesy of the poet

 Inner Sanctum: It’s a special performance marking 60 years of your life with its many ups and downs. How will you tell your life stories to audiences?

The performance comes from my friend’s suggestion. I got a serious illness in 2019 and travelled to Singapore for treatment. When I recovered in 2021, it was those friends who suggested that I should make a new programme to celebrate my victory at the life and death boundary.

However, due to the pandemic and my health, I waited until this year, when I reach 60 years old, exactly five zodiac circles of the Year of the Tiger. At such a time, it is obvious that I have a lot of emotions and feelings that I want to express and share.

The concert includes some familiar songs based on my poetry by famous composers Phú Quang, An Thuyên, Lê Mây and Đức Trịnh. The programme has the participation of many of my favourite artists, who are my close friends, such as People’s Artists Phạm Ngọc Khôi, Thúy Mùi, Quốc Anh, Thúy Ngần, and saxophonist Quyền Văn Minh.

The audiences will enjoy poetry in many art forms such as poem reciting, hát xẩm (blind busker’s music), Huế singing, instrumental music and pop. I will also directly present some of my works.

Inner Sanctum: Why do you name the performance ‘Still Desire’? At the age of 60, do you still desire something?

This programme expresses my desire to conquer. Even though I have reached the top of the mountain, I still want to conquer another mountain. I am less than satisfied with what I have achieved. Especially people who are art creators, they always want what they haven’t had. They desire to create new things. When I go through many peaks, happiness and sorrow, the thirst is still here.

Inner Sanctum: You pursue creativity and a desire to create. So is this the message that you want to send people through art?

No poet can say that his private life is peaceful because if he did, he wouldn’t be able to write poetry. Creators never stop suffering. If you don’t worry about your own problems, you’re “in pain” because of other people’s problems, of humanity.

If there is a message to send, it’s about completeness. Looking at this cup of coffee, you say that “there is less”, I think it is a lot. You can sip for a while longer. The “more or less” is very relative. You have enough when you think it is enough.

I feel happy because I can do what I love and still have dear readers. At this age, I learned to behave more properly with myself and the world around me.

Writing poetry and news stories is my way of living. Those are my thoughts and feelings that I want to share with everyone. Write it down, and I’ve shared it. As for whether the poem was successful or liked, that is the second story. And at my age, it doesn’t matter anymore.

From left: Director Nguyễn Quang Long, poet Hồng Thanh Quang and musician Tuấn Nghĩa, organisers of the art performance. VNS Photo Ngô Minh

Inner Sanctum: At this time, when crossing the lines of birth and death, what is your greatest desire?

Now I only have the desire to live. In the past, I lived aggressively, and I was engrossed in going without caring about the people around me because the journey was an important thing for me. Writing is important, poetry is important, the charm of poetry is important… and I ignored other things, including my closest people.

Now the thirst in me is to live so that I can make up for the lack of things in the past, but of course, life can’t be fixed. I myself do not know how long I will live, but for just one day alive I always try to make up for the disadvantages of my past. But I’m lucky to always be forgiven by my family and friends.

Inner Sanctum: How is your health now?

I have recovered from cancer. My health is not very good right now, but it is still enough to write a few thousand words a week. I write what I enjoy.

Poetry has saved me and sheltered me. Sometimes, I think I rely on poetry to give life to the words I write.

Inner Sanctum: You are a poet but have worked as chief editor at a newspaper. Looking back on your career, do you find yourself in conflict?

I still think that a job, profession or title are just external things. The main thing is that no matter where, in any position, I remain loyal and consistent with my chosen style.

A journalist with a poetic soul can look at political, economic and social issues in a humane way and create an attractive and understandable interpretation of all these topics.

Journalistic thinking is like a “safety latch” for the soul of poetry. In the romantic “slips” in my life, I still have that “insurance rope”.

Therefore, poetry and journalism at the same time create a certain rationality in all my actions. Both are intrinsic needs that are indispensable in my life. VNS


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Japanese director lets Vietnamese cast emulate their own emotions



Lê Hương & Hồng Vân

They gather in a spacious room, full of light. Each holds a script, losing themselves the roles they are assigned. Sometimes they read out the dialogue straight off the script, as no one has learned it by heart yet.

From time to time, he stops them to remind or give remarks on their acting.

This has been the usual sight in a rehearsal room of the Youth Theatre in downtown Hà Nội in the past few weeks, as Japanese director Tsuyoshi Sugiyama leads the outstanding Hedda Gabler play by noted Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen with the theatre’s artists.

“We are in the ice-breaking period when the actors start to learn the dialogue and try to understand the characters,” director Sugiyama told Việt Nam News.

“I was very worried at first when being asked to stage the play with the theatre’s actors,” he said. “The play was written 130 years ago by a Norwegian writer. How I can inspire people between 20-40 years old to share the same feelings with the characters? Then I spoke with the actors and found out that they have the same problems in modern Vietnamese society. I was relieved as the play mentions present problems as well.”

Tsuyoshi Sugiyama explains the roles to his cast. — VNS Photo Lê Hương

The director worked with the artists in Uncle Vanya, another play by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), a few years ago. The performance won the Best Play Award at the International Theatre Festival in Việt Nam 2019.

“The story of Hedda Gabler is very simple but has a deeper level of feelings in comparison with Uncle Vanya story,” he noted. “Last time I had to explain what the writer meant in Uncle Vanya. This story is much simpler to understand but not as easy to express the feelings of characters.”

In this first stage, the director lets the actors free to act. He has not guided them on how they should act, or what props to use.

“I let them act as what they feel about the characters. It’s like going in a circle, but it will be quicker if, in the last stage, I figure out how they should act the roles,” he said. “Then it will be very quick as they have grown deep emotions of the characters.”

Youth Theatre stars rehearse Hedda Gabler. — VNS Photo Lê Hương

Sugiyama said they will certainly find a way to decorate the stage both beautifully and exactly to the script, to stimulate the audience’s creativeness.

Love for Việt Nam

Sugiyama commented that artists in the Youth Theatre have many features to describe.

“All of them are suitable for the career,” he remarked. “Sometimes I feel that they are like children, with no limitation. They can think and feel the characters in many ways and can express the roles in various ways, too.”

Sugiyama said he highly appreciates the diligent research of the artists.

“They introduce their own explanations for the characters, for the plays. Their explanations get more and more profound. I strongly believe that with their efforts, the play will succeed,” he said.

Sugiyama wants to make more contributions to Vietnamese theatre. — VNS Photo Lê Hương

The director has been to Việt Nam many times, the longest time being three months long.

“I want to stay to work in Việt Nam even longer this time,” he said. “The food here is so good. I like the hot weather.”

“Vietnamese people are agile and straightforward,” he remarked. “They will speak out if they do not feel ok about something. They are also open and caring of others.”

Sugiyama said he wants to continue to learn about the goodness and even the bad things of Việt Nam.

He said he likes the Old Quarter with its houses with an ancient culture, though the area is sometimes full of tourists.

“I like strolling in the quiet old streets. I also like parks with many trees and lakes, which bring me peace and tranquillity.”

The director said he wants to travel around the country to Sa Pa with various ethnic minority groups and coastal cities like Huế and Đà Nẵng.

“I like vermicelli with fish, phở, nem and coffee. Local coffee is rather strong but we don’t have that in Japan so it attracts me. I will use up my time to explore more delicacies that I haven’t tried.”

Actress Đinh Thu Thủy, who plays the leading role of Hedda Gabler in the play, said she and her colleagues are quite comfortable working with the director.

“I strongly believe that we will succeed as he guided us last time in Uncle Vanya and we won the best play award,” she said. “We are working in a close group together to find out the best ways to express the characters’ feelings. The director then will find out his own way to bring Asian features to the Norwegian play.”

Thủy said her role is quite hard, which requires working with other artists in other roles in the play.

“When taking this role, I know that I needed more knowledge. I should be more creative, acting with greater care to make an interesting Hedda Gabler with the special marks of the Youth Theatre,” she said.

Sugiyama is really enjoying spending more time in Việt Nam. —VNS Photo Lê Hương

Norwegian ambassador to Việt Nam Grete Lochen highlighted that Henrik Ibsen’s themes are still relevant and universal; it’s not just about Norway but more importantly the dimensions between modernity and traditions.

“His messages work equally well today as a hundred years ago,” she said.

Although Việt Nam and Norway are far apart, we all know that culture brings people together and has a common language, she said.

“I think this will be an exciting event both for Norway and Việt Nam and it also had an element of Japan as the director is a Japanese director. I’m excited to see how the Japanese director will together with Vietnamese actors interpret Hedda Gabler…” she said.

Now Sugiyama creates theatre works mainly in Tokyo, Japan. He participates with his company in domestic and international theatre festivals and does theatre workshops in Asian countries as “the education programme for communication through theatre play” for local children, under the support of the Japan Foundation.

Meritorious Artist Nguyễn Sĩ Tiến, director of the Youth Theatre, admits that Sygiyama has a special love for Vietnamese theatre.

“He has many plans to work longer here and make more contributions to Vietnamese theatre,” Tiến said. “For this play, he has many expectations, too. He hopes to win Vietnamese audience’s hearts with this play and wants to bring it to international festivals.” VNS


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The long, slow death of the ‘Honda’ Win



Seán Nolan



A ‘Honda’ Win 100cc. Photo courtesy of


While the number of tourists I’ve seen since the reopening of the border to international tourists in March has allayed any fears I had about the tourism ‘bubble’ being burst in Việt Nam, one thing is still missing, something that a few years ago went hand-in-hand with backpackers and tourists.

I’m talking, of course, about the (in)famous ‘Honda’ Win.

Lambasted by anyone with any level of motorcycling knowledge (Tigit Motorcycles in HCM City named it THE WORST bike you can buy in Việt Nam), these Win’s were usually backpackers’ first choice for seeing Việt Nam under their own steam.

Cheap, customisable and available everywhere, it wasn’t hard to spot an overpacked model careering down the road, all backpacks and bungee cords hanging precariously. Even a few expats who ought to have known better couldn’t resist.

These days though, they are a much rarer sight.

I should clarify; chances are none of us have ever seen a legitimate Honda Win.

The first Honda Win 100cc rolled off the production line in 1986, though it was heavily based on the Honda CD90 from 1971. The bike went out of production in 2005, when several other unassociated companies jumped on the bandwagon, pumping out their own versions faster than they could break down – which, if you’re wondering, was pretty fast.

I had the (dis)pleasure of riding a knock-off Win for a while, and it was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt on two wheels.

The seat is high and narrow, as are the pegs, leaving the rider feeling like their knees are around their ears – not ideal for maintaining your balance in rush hour traffic.

The brakes, a drum design that should have stayed in the 1970s, are woeful, and the suspension is so soft if you hit a pothole in the previous town you’d still be bumping as you reach the next.

Despite all of this, the ‘Honda’ Win was always a popular choice for backpackers looking to ride from Hà Nội to HCM City, or vice versa – perhaps because, unlike the much more popular and reliable scooters favoured by locals, the Wins look like ‘real’ motorbikes.

My running hypothesis is that, with the borders shut and a shortage of buyers, the Wins that should have been sold to their eighth or tenth owner to traipse back down the country simply ended up being cannibalised for parts or sold for scrap metal, while supply chain breakdowns with China meant no new models took their place.

Fast forward two years and all that is left of the problematic Wins is a rose-tinted view of a time before COVID.

COVID may have changed a lot of things but, perhaps, some of those changes are for the better. VNS


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