Dao Anh Khanh: Vietnam’s Most Controversial Artist 

Dao Anh Khanh: Vietnam’s Most Controversial Artist 

Picture a treehouse built by a Vietnamese ex-police officer turned artists who draws his inspiration from human genitalia. Now read on and discover how Dao Anh Khanh has made this a reality. And click here to discover more of Hanoi’s fascinating characters.

What makes art controversial? It could be your own interpretation, whether you find it shocking, disturbing, or provocative. It could be the critics’ interpretations, pushing the boundaries of what art truly means.  

In Vietnam, you’ll find that this decision comes down to the police. Dao Anh Khanh has been on both sides of this argument. He was once a member of the censor department in the secret police. Now he holds the title of Vietnams most controversial artist.  

When meeting Dao Anh Khanh, you’ll quickly see why he takes the title of “most eccentric man in Hanoi.” His work is controversial, his paintings and sculptures repeatedly depicting the human genitalia, and his live performances have a sexual drive. What does this mean in a country so famously wrought with censorship? 

For Khanh, it all started when he was young and wanted to avoid mandatory service in the army. He enlisted, instead, with the police force. His father was a high-ranking police official. So, for 20 years Khanh worked in the secret police’s culture department, monitoring the activities of artists in Hanoi.  

Khanh will describe to you the latter part of his career in his own words. He often tells of how he would meet with performance artists who were pushing the limits of free expression. He did this to determine whether their art posed a threat to the status quo.  

Khanh left the police in the mid-90s. He was able to convince them to pay his way through art school. From there, he began painting full-time, eventually winning over his wary peers in the art scene, reassuring them that he wasn’t still a part of the secret police.   

These days it seems almost hard to believe that Khanh was ever in that line of work. You’ll find his art is relentlessly brave in the face of censorship, predominantly exploring sex with a straightforward approach. His controversial work has close ties to his time as a policeman, and with the communist party, but is personal and unique to him.  

Khanh is known largely for his controversial sculptures, and for his eccentric performances. These range from ladder burning and naked dancing, to erratic screams over professional heavy metal musicians.   

Today, Khanh’s attention is focused on his art installation turned treehouse turned homestay turned orgy destination – complete with sex dungeon.  

Entering his home, you’ll see everything you would expect of the man himself. It has vulvas hidden in every nook and cranny. There’s even one in a tree, which he claims that God gave him as a reward for his love of vulvas.   

Though his work may appear to be overly controversial within Vietnam’s society, to many it is merely a form of expression, one that has been around for centuries.  

Visiting Khanh’s house is like stepping into an artist’s wondering mind. Each corner is filled with imagination, and Khanh’s eccentric nature only adds to the welcoming atmosphere. Allow yourself to be swallowed up by fountain of creativity, and don’t worry too much about the sex dungeon – it’s invitation only. 

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

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Hong My: The Unbelievable Life of a Vietnamese Soldier

Hong My: The Unbelievable Life of a Vietnamese Soldier

During the war, Hong My shot down an American fighter pilot. He was later shot down by a different American fighter pilot. Now he’s befriended them both. Read on or click here to discover more of Hanoi’s fascinating characters. 

If it’s your first time visiting Hanoi, you can be excused for feeling as though the Vietnam War never even happened. The capital city is growing rapidly. New buildings are shooting up seemingly every day. Down hidden alleyways and sitting in secret pockets of the city, however, you’ll find unique slices of history, reminding us how fresh these wounds are.  

In a house on the side of the Red River, surrounded by his family, you’ll find Hong My. He’s got a strong build, a trademark gold necklace, and an unswerving kindly manner. He’s an example of Hanoi’s unassuming nature, brimming with secrets and overflowing with history.   

Hong My is a hero of the ‘Vietnam War,’ or ‘American War,’ depending on whom you ask. He was the first pilot to shoot down an American fighter jet. He retired from the war with two broken arms and a series of accolades. When visiting Hong My, you’ll find him to be an open book, full of tales from the war, and his experience in its aftermath.   

He’ll regale you with the intrepid story of his dogfight. His fearless behavior earned him a reputation as the first pilot to shoot down an American fighter jet.

Although running out of fuel, he decided to ignore the advice to return to base, pursuing and shooting down an American fighter jet. Following his return to the airbase, Hong My was informed that he would have crashed if he’d waited another minute to land. His victim, the American pilot John Stiles, lay amongst the trees awaiting rescue.    

Throughout America’s history, Hong My isn’t known for his brave flying for North Vietnam. Instead, people know him as the victim and new friend of the famous US Major Dan Cherry.    

Their story began 30 miles southwest of Hanoi. Hong My’s squad were acting as bait for three American fighter jets. Hong My, in his camouflaged plane, was meant to take them by surprise. Hong My was closing in fast when Dan Cherry took him on. The last Cherry saw of Hong My was his open parachute drifting off into the distance.  

Over the last 10 years, in a strange twist of fate, Hong My has befriended both Stiles and Cherry. He even visited Cherry’s home town of Bowling Green. The Governor of Kentucky conferred on him the honorary rank of Colonel, and his photo was put on an American stamp.   

You’ll find Hong My residing in a small house in Hanoi. He lives on a meagre monthly income of 200 USD a month, provided by the government. He spends his days surrounded by his grandchildren, which he attributes to his contagious happiness.   

A trip to visit Hong My is a serene voyage into history. You’ll sip tea in his home, or head to his local bia hoi to try the unique Vietnamese beer (which is inside a former military base).  

Trips to see Hong My are always unique, where you might be shown around Hanoi Hilton and military museum. This is the same journey he gave his friend Dan Cherry. Be it historic tours, or drinking tea or beer, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve experienced a trip into the past. 

 

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

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Hoang Anh Suong: Digging Up Dead Bodies with a Tea Specialist

Hoang Anh Suong: Digging Up Dead Bodies with a Tea Specialist

How did one of Vietnam’s top tea specialists develop an interest in clairvoyance?  Read on and explore how Hoang Anh Suong balances his two passions or click here to discover more of Hanoi’s fascinating characters.

To many people in Vietnam, Hoang Anh Suong is known for two very different fields of expertise. You may be a tea enthusiast, in which case you’ll likely be wowed by Suong’s knowledge and experience regarding tea. There is also Suong the enigmatic journalist, who records the history of people finding the dead through psychic means. Hoang Anh Suong happens to be the foremost expert on both matters. 

When it comes to tea, Suong has dedicated a lot of time to spread his enthusiasm on the subject throughout the country and the world. Not only does he have a thorough knowledge of the leaves, he also combines this with his education in Buddhism and meditation. He approaches the subject with a distinct level of sophistication. You’ll discover that he’s always open to speak on the subject in English and Vietnamese. 

The other side of Suong is remarkably different. He represents something of a medium turned detective. In perhaps his most famous case, Suong trekked to a northern mountainous region in Vietnam to talk to a man who had been searching for his brother for 30 years. 

He records the journeys that people have gone through to try and find the bodies of the deceased. By doing this, he aims to pay tribute to the dead and maintain their stories for future generations. This way he can accurately reflect the loss of the people who remained after their loved ones were gone.  

Different books have taken him to different places. In “Echo From the Souls,” Suong runs the reader through the 13-year search for more than 5,000 martyrs from Nam Nhia. He also recounts his trip to search for the 4,000 prisoners lost at Phu Quoc prison. In one account, he speaks about Hoang Cong Chat – a farmer and his search to find General Tran Do’s family grave.  

The scientific foundations supporting Suong’s discoveries will amaze you. Throughout his work, he carefully depicts the human elements of these psychic searches, but backs it up with DNA evidence. He follows the trail of psychics who have found the remains of revolutionary leaders, cultural celebrities, and lost heroes. While you may find his stories to be odd and you may not believe in the ghosts of dead relatives, you will undoubtedly find them fascinating, spooky, and charming. 

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

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Nguyen Qui Duc: The Scandalous Critic of Vietnam

Nguyen Qui Duc: The Scandalous Critic of Vietnam

Nguyen Qui Duc holds a delicate position as an American citizen of South Vietnamese heritage with a hub for intellectuals in Hanoi. Read more about one of the characters at the forefront of Vietnam’s creative scene or click here for more of Hanoi’s fascinating characters. 

Nguyen Qui Duc is known as many things. You may have heard of him already. He’s a semi-retired scandalous journalist, art collector, and fiery critic of the government. He’s got knowledge as dense as a thesaurus and deep roots in Vietnam’s history, and he’s always happy to talk about it. 

Born in Vietnam and raised in America, Nguyen Qui Duc has a unique perspective of Vietnam and the government. He is neither a foreigner, nor conventionally Vietnamese. This means he’s able to avoid prison and deportation. As a highly knowledgeable, tenacious journalist, this position is ideal for Duc. 

 

Duc was just nine years old when the Viet Cong launched their Tet offensive. They destroyed everything he and his family knew. His father was a high-ranking civil servant in the South Vietnam government. He was taken prisoner and marched up the Ho Chi Minh trail. He would spend the next 12 years under the close watch of the Viet Cong while his mother stayed behind to look after her mentally ill sister. In 1975, as the tanks of the Viet Cong approached, Duc fled Saigon for pastures new in America.   

In 1984 Duc was reunited with his parents in California, following a youth spent living as a typical American boy, pursuing the typical American dream. He earned a B.A in TV & Radio from San Francisco State University. He went on to work as an editor and broadcaster with various TV and radio channels. These included the BBC in London and KALW in San Francisco.   

In the 1980s, as Vietnam once more opened itself to the world, Duc found himself returning as a reporter. This was Duc’s life, working as the host of the public radio show “Pacific Time,” reporting and traveling. In 2006, he packed up his apartment, sold his car, and moved to Hanoi.  

These days, Duc is the resident critic of Vietnam. Over the past few years, he has written articles such as “Whose Vietnam War?” for the New York Times. In it, he criticizes the government, suggesting it no longer has the backing of the youth. 

You’ll likely find this to be Duc’s main appeal. Hes able to tell the truth of Vietnam, without censorship. He can fill in the gaps in the country’s history and culture with the parts that the Vietnamese government don’t want people to know.   

Though you won’t be able to visit him in his modernist-inspired home in Tam Dao, which has been featured everywhere from the New York Times to Apartmento Magazine, you’ll find Duc iTadioto, his bar and gallery in Hanoi. 

Tadioto, means, “let’s take the car” and is a dry dig at the ever-increasing monopoly of cars in the Vietnamese capital. It’s stylish and chic and has become a central pillar for Hanoi’s creative and politically-conscious scene. Duc has become as the driving force behind it and will happily be your guide. 

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

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Mark Rappaport: Vietnam’s Weird and Wonderful Treasures

Mark Rappaport: Vietnam’s Weird and Wonderful Treasures

Delve into Vietnam’s best museums before uncovering one of the country’s largest private collections of historic and cultural artefacts. Read more about Mark Rappaport below click here to discover more of Hanoi’s fascinating characters.

Mark Rappaport is a collector, and a magpie for anything spectacular. He’s got a sixth sense for anything remarkable, and his collection makes up Hanoi’s most interesting museum – 54 Traditions. A visit to Mark is an exploration, not only into Vietnamese culture, but also into Mark’s fantastic world.  

Minority ethnic groups make up around 8% of Vietnam’s population – that’s around 9 million people. While that may sound like a lot, this number is spread far, encompassing some 54 groups in total. Mark Rappaport is doing his best to preserve this culture, by collecting and maintaining an enormous selection of artefacts.  

This born and raised New Yorker sparked an interest in Vietnamese culture as a medical student visiting Vietnam in 1969. He spent his time as a volunteer medical worker for civilians and ethnic minorities.  

You’ll find 54 Traditions to be a treasure trove of Vietnamese gems. Named after the 54 Vietnamese ethnic groups that it represents, it has over 15,000 objects scurried away in this four-story home. There are wooden bed settees, tea chests, utensils and small, everyday objects, used by the H’mong, Dao, Tay and Nung people.   

Having seen what American soldiers were doing to the Vietnamese people during his time here in the 1960s, Mark decided to venture out to give assistance to the locals. He gathered artefacts along the way, building up a collection. Following his time spent in Vietnam, Mark made a move to Africa, to provide medical assistance there, continuing to grow his collection of antiquities.   

Over the next 25 years, as his collection grew, he would donate and sell thousands of artefacts to individuals and institutions. Some of these included the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Mingei International Museum in California; and the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts. He’s also contributed to collections at Harvard, Boston, Yale and Brown Universities.   

In 2001 Mark returned to Vietnam, settling in Hanoi with his wife. Over the next four years, Mark, along with his business partner Nhung, would travel across rural Vietnam. Along the way they would meet minority cultures, collecting thousands of artefacts. A large portion of these objects have gone on to be included in exhibitions in Hanoi, developing Mark’s status as “the gatekeeper of Vietnam’s minority culture.”  

Mark’s enthusiasm is enchanting. As well as his broad knowledge of Vietnam’s minority cultures, you won’t find an individual as enthusiastic about living in Hanoi. 

Mark is so in love with the capital that, with the help of his family, he wrote a book entitled “101 Reasons to Love Living in Hanoi.” A few of the 101 reasons include the safety of the city, its many lakes, and its lovely geckos, which croak in the night.  

You’ll find a conversation with Mark to be an adventure through Vietnam’s history. As well as an exploration through his own museum, he may walk you around the Museum of Ethnography, Fine Art Museum, or the Women’s Museum. Along the way, he’ll offer explanations and insight into the history behind traditional art and costumes.  

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Want to get in contact with me?

Leave your email address below: