Gift Guide December 2019

Sunken Treasures

Beneath the murky surface of the Brokopondo Hydro Lake in Suriname, South America, lies a hidden treasure that’s over 60 years—a 150,000-hectare underwater tropical forest. However, harvesting this submerged wood is difficult because divers must venture 15 meters deep into the lake to recover it. Through innovation and technology, Brokopondo Lakewood (www.facebook.com/Lakewoodvn) brings unique wooden products from the lake right into your home.

Forest harvesting has negative environmental, economic and social aspects, such as the destruction of natural habitats of many species. But, because Brokopondo is harvesting trees that have already fell, no negative impacts arise that will damage the environment and they’re committed to working towards a more sustainable future. Approximately 100 local employees work at the company’s sawmill, which helps to empower Suriname’s ethnic groups and native tribes by giving them an opportunity to earn a living and lift themselves out of poverty.

Although the trees have been submerged in the lake for over 50 years, the integrity of the wood has not been altered but rather preserved quite well by the fresh water from the lake. This, actually, has made the wood highly resistant to rotting, bending and cracking and is, therefore, suitable for both outdoor and indoor use.

From these recovered trees, Brokopondo Lakewood has created outdoor decking, indoor eco-friendly solid hardwood flooring, live-edge tables/slabs, surfaces, wall cladding/table and counter tops, and charcuterie boards.

Lakewood Handmade Charcuterie Boards
Their unique charcuterie boards are made from wood recovered from Brokopondo Lake, handcrafted and designed by local artisans in Vietnam. The boards’ natural colors are enhanced by natural tungsten oils, which are made in Vietnam, and are FDA/EU food safe graded. The charcuterie boards are great for entertaining dinner guests, but also great as décor accents in the home. They’re ideal gifts for your foodie friends and families this holiday season.

For this year’s festive season, Brokopondo Lakewood is offering Oi Vietnam readers a 10% discount on their 8 different styles of handmade charcuterie boards, simply bring a copy of the this article with you to their showroom at 28 Thao Dien, D2. You can also buy the charcuterie boards online at Tiki with a 10% promotion code at: tiki.vn/cua-hang/lakewood-homemade

Oils For Your Health

Natural essential oils have been used for thousands of years in various cultures for medicinal and health purposes. Essential oil uses range from aromatherapy, household cleaning products, personal beauty care, natural healing and medicinal treatments. Their benefits come from their antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Purnatural Oils (www.facebook.com/purnatural.oils) brings 100% natural essential oils to you and your family.

This holiday season, Purnatural offers gift box sets of 100% organic essential oils. Choose from a set of 6 x 10ml (VND600,000) or a set of 3 x 15ml (VND450,000), with 9 different fragrances to choose from: Peppermint, Y-lang Y-lang, Teatree, Grapefruit, Sweet Orange, Lavender, Lemongrass, Lemon and Cinnamon. Individual bottles available in 10ml go for VND120,000; 15ml are VND170,000 and 50ml are VND420,000.

They would also like to introduce Purnatural Coconut oil as being the highest standard of quality that Vietnam has to offer and as the perfect carrier oil to partner with their essential oils. The highest quality that will nourish hair, skin and body to bring glowing results naturally, and also certified safe for use in cooking.

Their Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut Oil is 100% organic and by using a centrifuge separation technique to obtain the highest quality coconut oil, Purnatural can offer customers a more efficient product for improving their health and beauty. The coconut oil is sourced direct from local farmers in the Mekong Delta from sustainably grown coconuts. Purnatural are happy to support these small local farming communities in remote areas. They’re available in 100ml  (VND60,000) or 200ml (VND90,000) convenient, easy to use pump bottles.

For more interesting facts and uses for these versatile products and to order visit, (www.purnaturalvn.com) or contact Hanh (076) 669 5979 or Jillian (077) 419 1395. Free delivery within HCMC for orders of VND200,000 or higher.

Biker Chic/k

On any given day, you might find Nguyen Tran Phuong Hien rocking up to her Hanoi leather workshop on a handsome Harley-Davidson Iron 883. On the weekends, she prefers something with a bit more heft, like her Heritage Softail with its gangster-era style and vintage details. One of, if not the only, female riders who’ve cruised the length of Vietnam on a Harley, there’s nothing typical about this 29-year-old from Thai Nguyen.

Born to a family of shoemakers, one of Hien’s earliest memories is of her father and grandfather handcrafting shoes in their home workshop. After earning a Master’s degree in Industrial Design from the UK, Hien soon found herself back in Vietnam, marrying her three true loves—biking, fashion, and leather.

Established in 2011, BHorse Leather is a mashup of Hien’s nickname along with the first hides she had to work with. Inspired by her fashion icon Alexander McQueen, the signature BHorse aesthetic is clean, minimalistic, and expertly crafted, but with a healthy dose of theatricality.

“People don’t want to see clothes. They want to see something that fuels the imagination,” said the famed British designer who might as well have been talking about BHorse.

“The difference in BHorse products is that they have soul,” says Hien. “When you pick up a BHorse product, it’s incredibly distinctive.” Starting from those first rare horsehides, Hien and her team of artisans now work with a range of exotic skins, including crocodile, lizard, python, and ostrich to craft beyond-beautiful works of art, like python Vespa saddles or crocodile Vertu cases.

While the boutique has some ready-made items for men and women including bags, wallets, clutches, and briefcases, BHorse excels in custom leatherworking. Customers can commission a piece inspired by their favorite designer (with their initials in place of a logo so the piece can confidently be used anywhere in the world without fear of copyright infringement), or something truly bespoke where Hien and her team will come up with a one-of-a-kind design after consulting with the client.

Widely known in the high-end motorcycle community for its gorgeous saddle bags and custom jackets, BHorse has a range of gifts that double as everyday art form. For this holiday season, Hien recommends a finely crafted cigar case for the sophisticated gentleman in your life, while you simply cannot go wrong with a python bag for the discerning woman who has everything.

See the complete collection at www.b-horseleather.com or visit the boutique and workshop at 101- 4B Ly Nam De, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. For a limited time, receive a charming leather ornament with purchase.

Mindful Writing

Have you heard about journaling?

In this digital, fast-paced world it is sometimes hard to settle down. Did you know writing a journal can be a powerful way to be more mindful in your daily life?

Pilgrim is a young label created by Charlotte Zaslavsky, a French maker based in Saigon. Charlotte formerly worked in marketing and communications, but a couple of years ago she found a way to combine her passion for beautiful fabric and her skill at bookbinding with her love of Asia.

She began making notebooks as a hobby. As a compulsive buyer of printed cotton, every time she traveled she would bring home souvenirs: fabrics that she fell in love with. Noticing that her collection of fabric from her journeys around Asia was getting bigger, she decided to use some of her printed cotton on the covers of her notebooks… and Pilgrim was born. Pilgrim’s notebooks are the perfect companions for stepping away from the
digital world by journaling meditation sessions, recording moments of gratitude, collecting recipes, or fine-tuning your drawing skills. They are patiently bound by hand and covered with beautiful printed cotton. Each
pattern is purchased in very limited quantities so each series is unique.

Charlotte now uses mainly cotton from Japan because she says “it’s not only beautiful but also of outstanding quality. I particularly love the golden details on some patterns, it makes the notebooks really elegant.” It feels special to put down your phone and pick up a lovely, handmade notebook for a few moments of creativity and relaxation.

Pilgrim now makes photo albums as well. These are popular as gifts for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, farewell parties and other celebrations. The photo albums can be custom made and you can visit the Pilgrim workshop and select your favorite fabric from amongst more than 50 patterns.

Out of concern for the environment and for the rainforest in Borneo, which is rapidly being destroyed by palm oil companies, Charlotte has decided to take action and partner with One Tree Planted (onetreeplanted.org), a non-profit organization that plants trees all over the world. For each notebook purchased at a bazaar or selected shops, Pilgrim donates funds to plant one tree. In just one year, sales of Pilgrim notebooks subsidized the planting of enough trees to cover an area the size of a football field!

Where to find Pilgrim?

For notebooks, photo albums and obi belts, visit the Pilgrim workshop in D2 (by appointment on facebook.com/bypilgrim or Instagram: onlybypilgrim). You can also find notebooks in stores in D1 and D2 listed on their Facebook page.

Forever in Bloom

Wild Bloom’s story started in February 2019 when co-founders Hang and Bella partnered together to open a beautiful, yet sustainable, flower business. Hang originally wanted to sell fresh flowers but the latter’s passion for sustainability and eco-friendly living created a compromise that resulted in long lasting dry flowers and flora arrangements.

Wild Bloom (www.facebook.com/wildbloomvn) focuses on developing products using dried flowers to provide a variety of needs such as gifts, event decorations, wedding bouquets and home interior statement pieces. Their product portfolio includes all products related to dried flowers and eco-friendly gift products, including floral candles, black soap and bamboo tumblers.

The next time you’re in District 2, stop by their floral concept store at 81 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, D2) and smell the dried roses…

Wax Lyrical

Vu Vo-Dinh, the creator behind Candle Cup, talks about his newest hobby-turn-business and how each scent tells a personal story

What inspired you to start a Candle Cup?

Growing up in the countryside in Vietnam, every household would have candles ready to burn whenever there was a power outage, which was quite often back then, so this memory made me especially interested in candles. Over the year, I started to collect scented candles, not only for lighting purposes but also to add fragrances to my living space. However, it was hard to find good quality scented candles in Vietnam that met my requirements so I decided to make my own that smell great, safe and affordable for daily use. Most commercial scented candles are toxic because they are made from paraffin wax—a petroleum based product—and cheap fragrance. Also, imported high quality scented candles are expensive for daily use for most Vietnamese people.

Another reason I was making candles was to release stress. I was giving the extra candles to family and friends on special occasions and they liked them and asked me to make more for them to buy and that was how I started my business.

How did you learn to make candles?

I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and nanotechnology from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Science. After graduating, I worked for an international company that provided solutions for a manufacturing company. During this time, I learned a lot about materials and the manufacturing processes when I worked on a new product or was doing quality control checks. On one of these projects helped me find the key ingredient for my candles—palm wax, an extract from palm trees. Palm trees were grown from non-GMO seeds therefore the lack of pesticide and fertilizer makes it a great choice for making non-toxic candles.

The technical requirements of candle making I learned from the National Candle Association. I did tons of experiments to find out the right ingredients and formula to make great candles that are safe, aromatic and long lasting.

You do everything yourself, from production to marketing, tell us how long does it take to make a batch from start to finish?

I make candle in batches, from 50-100 pieces for each scent. The production includes preparing wicks, attaching them into the glasses, melting the wax into bowls, mixing the fragrance with the melted wax, pouring the mixture into glasses, waiting for the wax to cool down and solidify. After that, put each into individual boxes, and then labelling. Depending on quantity, a batch can take me six to 12 hours.

For sourcing raw material, it takes me about 30-45 days to order and wait for the package to arrive at my place since most of the ingredients need to be imported from the US.

Tell us about the six different Candle Cup scents.

Most of the scents are personal to me.

The most important first scent is Citronella. It’s made from 100 percent citronella essential oil, which helps to keep mosquitos away because they’re very attracted to me during the rainy season. The citronella smell is effective as an insect repellent and as a deodorant for those who cook in small spaces, which is also me.

The Bamboo scent reminds me of my grandmother’s garden, of the happy memories when I was a kid.

I like to spend time in the lab, or cooking or making candles, and sometimes I like to merge these things together. I liked the dish ngheu hap sa (clams steams with lemongrass) and its smell and came up with the idea of incorporating its spice into my candle. The result is Gingergrass, an experimental combination of ginger and lemongrass. It smells tasty, too.

When I was a kid, sometimes I would wake up in the morning by the aroma of my mom frying green tea with jasmine flower and peppermint leaves she had just harvested. So I created Jasmint as a gift to my mother.

Teakwood is my signature smell. It’s a scent I made to express my character: Energy from bergamot, some spice from black peppers and ginger but warm and rustic from ginger and sandalwood. It smells masculine, of course.

Saigon is always hot; I really missed the winters I spent in Switzerland when it was so cold and snowy. White Birch tries to capture the feeling of a cold breeze blowing through the window and a bit of sweetness that fills the loneliness of an expat life.

Candle Cup candles start at VND120,000. For more info or to place an order, visit www.facebook.com/candlecup

Raising the Bar

Putting the ‘art’ in artisan soaps is what this passion project is all about. Blue Moon Handmade takes natural skincare to the next level with their unique and mindfully crafted products. ‘Natural’ is a surprisingly broad category these days but you can count on Blue Moon to make mindful ingredient choices. “Natural soap doesn’t have to be 50 shades of beige or tainted with chemicals, synthetic fragrances, micas and other nasty additives,” said co-founders Tom and Laura. “There’s a whole world full of natural colorants like spirulina, clays and turmeric which are also full of beneficial minerals and nutrients for the skin and hair.” 

Their beautiful soaps are bright and creative, taking inspiration from local flavors and ingredients. Ca Phe Kon Tum features the finest Alambé coffee from the Central Highlands. The Moon Flower includes coconut water for extra bubbles and swirls of rose clay and indigo. Rich and creamy Gac and Lavender uses cold-pressed Vietnamese gac fruit oil while the Nuoc Mia and Lemongrass is made with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. If you want to treat someone to something extra indulgent for Christmas, try the gift set with Cocoa Butter Lotion Bar, Freshly Minted Shave Bar and limited edition Pumpkin Spice Latte Soap. 

Focus on scent was an important element when designing their new natural deodorant. Jasmine Green Tea is sweet, soft and comforting. Lemongrass Lavender is powerful and refreshing and Fresh Citrus & Woods is mellow and earthy. All three use arrowroot powder to absorb moisture and feature tea tree, zinc and vegan probiotics to keep body odor at bay. “We’re really proud of the deodorant, we both use it every day, so that speaks for itself,” said the duo.

This philosophy of attention to detail features heavily in their new mandala shampoo bars, available for the first time this Christmas season. Lavender and Rosemary includes fresh aloe vera juice for normal to oily hair, Bo Ket and Lemongrass incorporates bo ket pods (a traditional Vietnamese tonic) for shiny, healthy hair while Jasmine Green Tea features coconut milk for normal to dry hair. 

When asked what’s the next project, Blue Moon replied, “We’re looking forward to more collaborations. There are so many great ingredients, artists and local businesses available in Saigon to work with. We’ve been taking some custom orders as well which is really fun.”

All Blue Moon Handmade products are 100 percent vegan and palm oil free, with reusable packaging and no single use plastic. No synthetic fragrances, mica, SLSs, parabens or artificial preservatives are used. The full range includes soap, beard oils and balms, deet-free bug repellent, shaving bars, lotion bars, deodorant and solid shampoo—all handmade in small batches. 

Blue Moon Handmade products are available at Green Around the Corner (32 Tran Ngoc Thao, Thao Dien, D2), soaps at Kashew Cheese (14 Tran Ngoc Thao, Thao Dien, D2) and full range of products for cash on delivery in HCMC via www.bluemoonhandmade.com or www.facebook.com/bluemoonsaigon. 

Live The Pretty Simple Life

Pretty Simple – Washable Paper Bags was created by two Vietnam-based designers who share a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and a response to the call for sustainable fashion. Pretty Simple accessory line is everything they love and believe in. Bags designed to seamlessly fit you and your lifestyle, and that means all of the ups, downs and go-go-gos. They get it. They’re women, wives and mothers too.

In a world of fast and forgettable fashion, they know the real answer is to go slow. Slow as in timeless designs and use of renewable materials that last longer than a season. Slow and fair in production for proper compensations and safe work environments.

At Pretty Simple, the founders don’t approach style carelessly. They dream and design with our beautiful planet in mind, knowing that our future depends on the decisions we make today. It’s with this environmental consciousness that Pretty Simple strive towards mindful production and offer pieces that will last by using materials that will last. Timeless designs that do less harm and more good offering vegan alternatives to customers looking for a real choice.

The partners make Pretty Simple accessories in Vietnam because it’s their home, a place of incredible opportunity making strides in Southeast Asia towards a greener global future. All Pretty Simple Bags are handmade with fine attention to detail and impeccable workmanship: Locally designed and crafted, they are proudly made in Vietnam.

They are also dedicated to an ethical production process from start to finish. That means fair wages for labor force, an outright refusal of sweat and child labor and ethical working conditions that are safe, clean and accessible for their staff. The founders want you to see the connection in the choices you make. It’s why they sew the names of every individual responsible for the making of each Pretty Simple accessory into the bags themselves.

The Pretty Simple Collection is designed with a sustainable vegan leather material called washable paper. The material is made in Europe under FSC Certification and Oeko-Tex Standard 100. Washable paper is developed from natural plant fibers and guaranteed non-harmful substances in the production process from start to finish. The washable paper is natural, biodegradable and eco friendly. In addition, the bags are highly tear and water resistant and durable, making them completely washable.

Unlike genuine leather, washable paper is completely cruelty-free but thanks to innovation it’s similar to genuine leather in appearance, function and durability. Pretty Simple washable paper bags are made to last and can be washed multiple times so there’s no need to worry about marks and stains. Simply wash your bag on a gentle machine setting, with your preferred detergent, ideally at 40 degrees Celsius (use a laundry bag is optimum).

For more info and where to purchase Pretty Simple – Washable Paper Bags, visit www.facebook.com/prettysimplebags

Woof! Vroom!

Cho, Xe May/Dogs on Motorbikes is a watercolor calendar portraying local Saigon dogs and their owners on motorbikes and scooters. Painted by expat Tess Cheevers, the calendars are available in English and Vietnamese and come in two sizes: large wall hanging (30 x 42cm, VND250,000) and smaller triangular desk
calendars (13 x 21cm, VND200,000). All profits raised go to charities. 

You can pick them up in Thao Dien at Saigon Vet Clinic (Number 33, Street 41- Thao Dien, D2). Delivery is available for orders of 10 or more copies, please contact tess.jane.m@gmail.com.

Minimalist Leather

Lang Da Viet was founded in 2014 in a small rental room in the center of Hanoi based on a simple product—a wallet—a wallet that is able to hold two smartphones because most Vietnamese professionals usually carry two phones at the same time, one for business and one for personal use. Click here to check out how Jason Seiter makes a leather wallet.

Lang Da Viet believes in the philosophy that “all great thing starts from small ones’ and this is why they have focused on improving every small details of their product over the past five years. And, because of this attention to details, their wallets stands apart from others in the market and have been the brand’s bestseller and popularly recommended by Vietnamese.

“Although our products are fashion accessories, we do not let it overwhelm our philosophy on product design. All our products bring convenience to our customers. Each product has been researched to suit the Vietnamese customer’s habit and behavior before market launch and we believe we can do the same thing if we are going to reach out to the global market,” says Lang Da Viet’s founder.

Lang Da Viet’s minimalist style is also reflected in their packaging, where recyclable materials are used, and are always conscious of the environment over profit. Visit www.facebook.com/LangDaViet for more info on their products. Free delivery within Vietnam, including the islands.

The Sambal Lady

For Imelda Van der Wulp, a housewife and mother of three, cooking for her family is always her favorite part of the day. She tries to keep mealtime fun and creative, making a wide range of cuisines, from Mexican tacos to Japanese sushi, but the one ingredient that never leaves the dinner table is the chili sauce. “My husband, my oldest and I eat it with every meal. I naturally just started to create and design my own sauce because it was hard to find one that suited our high standards because we come from Indonesia, and spicy sambal is part of our culture,” explains Imelda of her homemade chili business Imelda’s Kitchen!.

From her small apartment kitchen, Imelda’s sambal was introduced to friends at barbecues, then to neighbors. Through their positive responses and recommendations to more friends, Imelda decided to spread her love of spice to a bigger audience in Saigon.

“I started advertising my fried sambal on Facebook, more specifically expat groups in Saigon at first. Surprisingly, pictures of my chili paste taken by my simple iPhone had been posted on various accounts, receiving positive comments. My authentic Indonesian fried sambal found it’s way to other dinner tables in Saigon,” she says.

Imelda is proud to bring authentic Indonesian flavors start to Saigon and even prouder to have been awarded the “best spicy sambal in Saigon 2019” at Soul Burger’s chili competition last month, competing with many other local and expat homemade sauces. “I’m truly pleased that I could make everyone’s meal more exciting with an Indonesian kick,” she says of her win.

All ingredients are fresh and hand picked by Imelda herself and contains no preservatives. The sambal sauces are100% natural and it’s truly direct from her kitchen to yours. “I also put some diversity using various kinds of chilies, spice levels and flavors. The unique taste of my fried sambal fits any types of food; from snack dips, in soups, and even when marinating any meat for a barbecue.”

Imelda’s chili sauce is her culture packed in a jar, containing flavor, love and, of course, spice. To order, visit www.facebook.com/imelda.vanderwulp , Instagram @imeldavanderwulp16, or email imeldavanderwulp16@gmail.com

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

Shared Knowledge

The spirit of connectedness and increased knowledge for increased knowledge sharing that animates UpLearn “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” goes the now-famous quote by former Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel. The quote seems tailored to this moment, this very one where “crisis” seems to be in abundance. The rest of it—well, where might

Read More »

Electric Youth

Oi speaks to Celine Ventalon about Miha Bodytec and EMS training in Saigon What is Electric Muscle Stimulator (EMS)?Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) training is a full-body workout that originally comes from a physiotherapy and combines a ‘free will contraction’ through an exercise and an external stimulus from an EMS device. This high-intense whole-body workout uses

Read More »

Nước Mắm

Dedicated to my tenacious bà ngoại (grandma) Text by Emili N. Lok I am a 13-year-old Vietnamese-American living in NYC. I’m also a boba lover, a Korean drama watcher, and a self-proclaimed spice food maniac. I’m currently a 7th grade student and wrote this story to feel more connected to the Vietnamese side of my

Read More »

A Tale of Two Traditions

The origin and evolution of Vietnamese traditional medicine The current historical (and hysterical?) moment has brought into sharp focus Vietnam’s northern neighbor, specifically a practice that feels almost occultish: the eating of exotic animals. It’s a custom that deserves context: Vietnam’s northern neighbor consumes animals reportedly for their healing or medicinal properties. Similarly, the Fito

Read More »

Switch Off and Connect

DIY workshops for crafts and beauty products with Amber House The do-it-yourself (DIY) urge is in full resurgence as people voluntarily limit their (solo!) social media consumption in favour of face-to-face interaction with others and creating communities. More and more people are seeking new experiences instead of obtaining more and more things. Amber Nguyen established

Read More »

The Quarantined Couple

The day after Jake* went to Buddha Bar on March 14 with his girlfriend Amy*, he remembered he felt sick, a sore throat and mild fever. It was similar to his girlfriend’s day-long fever and aches. Nothing too serious for either. Something more severe may have triggered alarm in him. Their visit happened as Vietnam

Read More »