Starting an English language center

Before opening an English language center in Saigon, Paul Blake owned and published Columbia City Paper in South Carolina from 2005 to 2011. Shortly after the publication closed, he relocated to Asia to continue in the media industry at an English-language newspaper while simultaneously teaching Business English to executives at Vincom Center. In 2012, Paul … Read more

Seeing a Man about a Dog

 Meet Wayne Capriotti, publisher of Vietnam’s first (and possibly only) online bilingual pet magazine  The inspiration for Me Thu Cung ( began several years ago when Wayne and his wife decided to add a dog to their family. They visited a handful of pet shops (very few existed in 2010) and were shocked by the … Read more

Mom, What’s for Dinner?

Sharing plates and family-style dining in a rustic garden setting In this age of complete disclosure, where just about everything imaginable is revealed through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, and good old reliable print, it’s nothing short of a miracle that a restaurant as charming as Secret Garden (Rooftop, 158 Pasteur, D1; serves lunch and dinner) … Read more

Gift guide

Bottom up Board games don’t have to be bored games, and are usually more fun when they are turned into drinking games. So, Darren Power and Curtis Norris, the creators behind Saigon Pub Crawl, have spiced up boring board games by combining the two things they know best: drinking and the city. “We wanted to … Read more

From Bean to Brew

Meet the men behind Dalat’s specialty coffee industry The specialty coffee industry in Dalat is going through unprecedented changes. It has evolved from a collection of simple family businesses struggling to sell their yearly crops and keep up with world trends to a complex business with sophisticated entrepreneurs helping the local community get the right … Read more

Thái Food Promotion at Hilton Hanoi

Hilton Hanoi Opera will hold a Thai Food Promotion from 31st October to 8th November in Ba Mien Restaurant. Guest chef Tofu from Thailand is pleased to invite you to experience the traditional and original Thai dishes. Live music will be showcased by one the most vibrant cultural performing group during the buffet dinner time. … Read more

Michelen-starred chef Matteo Metulio serves a treat at Intercontinental Nha Trang

On October 16, InterContinental Nha Trang welcomed the youngest Michelin-starred chef from Italy, Matteo Metulio, to serve an exclusive Michelin star dining experience in Nha Trang at the hotel’s international restaurant, The Cookbook Café. Featuring such delicate signature dishes that awarded him a Michelin star, Nha Trang epicures were invited to join Chef Mateo for … Read more

A Journey Begins

Oi interviews children’s book author Debbie Solomon ( about Journey to the River of Perfumes, her first book that was inspired about her visits to Vietnam

How did the idea of a children’s book come about?

I wrote the initial version of Journey as a class project in graduate school in 1999. I was in a program called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in the school of education. One of the class requirements was to write a big book for children in an ESL classroom.

Why did you choose Vietnam, and specifically Hue, as the setting of your first children’s book?

I had visited Vietnam 2 years prior. The trip made such an impression on me that I chose it as the backdrop for my first book. I specifically chose Hue because it left a lasting impression on me with its amazing sites. I could imagine how life was back in the days of the Emperor. It just seemed so majestic to me. I wanted children to learn a little about what I learned in Hue.

Who is Lan?

Is she based on any of your daughters or any real person in your life? The name Lan is the name of a Vietnamese friend from years back. I always loved that her name meant “flower.”

Why did you change the name of The Perfume River to River of Perfumes?

I just liked the way that the words flowed (like a river) for my title, so I changed it a bit.

How much of Lan’s adventures are your own?

Lan’s journey is like my own life’s journey when I was in my 20s and 30s. I spent many years away from home traveling the world, learning new things and meeting lots of interesting people. Through my experiences I gained a deeper appreciation of life and my family.

Like me, Lan returned from her journey. Like me, Lan realized how much her mother taught her through life and how much she appreciated her after I ventured out on my own. I always had a wonderful relationship with my mother so I dedicated this book to her.

What lessons do you want children to get from reading the book?

Wishes are not always for tangible things. Helping others can bring one satisfaction and joy. Children should think about those that help them in their lives and learn to appreciate them.

Journey inside

How did you work with the artist (who lives in Italy) to get the right scenery and characters for the book?

I scanned original photographs from my trips in Vietnam for the illustrator to study prior to painting the images in the book. So, the pictures are very authentic.

What can children learn about Vietnam from Journey to the River of Perfumes?

Children can learn about the landscape of Hue and other parts of rural Vietnam. How Hue is an ancient city in Vietnam with amazing architecture. Children can learn about lotus flowers, lifestyle of the people, how they plant rice, fish, etc. They can notice the dress with non la. The ubiquitous pho noodle soup. They can see the water buffalo. Each page lends itself to something in Vietnamese culture. Also their strong sense of family.