Brian Park: Vietnam

The Artful Mis-en-Scene

I took a personal trip to Vietnam as an offshoot from a visit to Korea where my family is from. Since I had been to Korea a few times I thought it was time for me to visit Southeast Asia for the first time. I had no idea what to expect other than what I’d seen in popular culture and movies. Over the course of two weeks I started my journey in the north and slowly worked my way south with an open book to meet fellow travelers and explore areas on the go. I had no set itinerary. I’m glad I had chosen Hanoi as my starting city since it was from there my eyes were peeled wide open from the start by going to the waters of Halong Bay and hills of Sapa that were just right outside of Hanoi. As I headed south I made stops at Hue, Hoi An, then Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) in the furthest south. I found what interested me most was discovering rural areas, indigenous cultures, the cities and their imperial/colonial roots. As a result, I cut short the more modern city of Ho Chi Minh by a day and returned to see more of Hanoi. Here are some of my favorite images from the trip.



Ha Long Bay. Apart from the colors the other unforgettable visual of Ha Long Bay are the silhouettes of the topography and many boat, especially during sunset and dusk.



Street food vendor, Hoi An. Most anywhere in Asia food is hardly ever out of short reach. Quick and easy bites such as these grilled skewers (“nuong”) are also cheap.



Lantern shop, Hoi An. Hoi An, also known as the “Lantern City” is a much smaller city behind Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. It is colorful and charming and comes alive at night when lanterns are lit. No motorized transport is allowed in the Old Town center so I spent much of my time exploring this town by foot.



Banh Mi cart, Ho Chi Minh City. One of many banh mi street food vendors in every Vietnamese city. Banh Mi is the Vietnamese baguette sandwich which stems from its French colonial roots. They were so yummy and cheap that I must’ve eaten at least one or two a day.



Motorists nightfall, Ho Chi Minh City. Most of the traffic in Vietnam is caused by scooter or motorbike. Although the photo seems serene with the twilight I can already hear all the crazy revving and motor sounds.



Mekong Delta. West of Ho Chi Minh is a large network of waterways that eventually lead out to the sea. By boat I was able to see the rich biological area of swampland, paddy fields, orchards and the geographic communities that stem from it.



Motorists, Ho Chi Minh City. Again, the commonality of motor transport in Vietnam for both men and women. It seems helmet laws are not enforced.



Elderly woman, Hanoi. To this day I’ve never figured out what all the numbers and text on walls all over Hanoi are about. In this photo I just love the juxtaposition of the peaceful elderly grandmother against the wild/modern graphic wall.



Ha Long Bay. Anyone who visits Vietnam must visit Ha Long Bay with at least an overnight cruise to see the jutting limestone karsts out of emerald water. Just as there are street vendors in the city here in this photo is a water vendor offering food and supplies out of their boat.



Hanoi streets. Hanoi is bustling and hectic as it’s larger partnering city Ho Cho Min although the streets are smaller. I prefer Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh as it seems less metropolitan and the French colonial roots are more visible. There is also in turn a better sense of the community.



Hmong villager. North of Hanoi is the town of Sapa and the Hmong people. Their dress is colorful with woven patterns.



All around Sapa are the rice fields. My group and I were led here by foot.



Part of my Sapa excursion was to stay overnight in the hills. Here the Hmong are preparing dinner cooked over a fire pit in a village home.



Street artisan vendor, Hoi An. Upon first glance what looks to be red peppers for sale are in fact painted figurines. I just quickly snapped this as I was walking through the old town but only later did I realize how the artisan was probably unaware of her own colorful mise-en-scene with the blue wall, red figurines, and orange sandals.


The Art of Dining
(and Colorful Friendships)

Chef John DeLucie and Artist Hunt Slonem

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Hunt Slonem’s world is filled with watercolors, thrift store furniture and lots and lots of pet birds. The only birds in Chef John DeLucie’s life are likely on plates at his Manhattan restaurants (Crown, The Lion and Bill’s Food & Drink). Yet, the restaurateur and the internationally acclaimed artist have maintained an inspiring friendship for the past several years. When Hunt’s not immersed in a new painting, he’ll grab a bite at The Lion (he likes their biscuits) and perhaps stare at his own pieces hanging on the wall, of which John has hung several favorites.


NeueHouse sat down with the talented, trendsetting duo as they reminisce on dining out, staying in and that famous rabbit painting.


Hunt Slonem: How would you describe your food, John?


John Delucie: I have an Italian background with some French training, but when I opened the Waverly Inn, the idea was really comfort food – and I got comfortable doing that. For the last ten years, I’ve been trying to come up with another name for comfort food but haven’t had any luck [laughs]. I’d say my food is accessible, modern and natural. I never want anything to be too pretty or perfect.


Slonem: I love the mixture of old and new in your restaurants, in the food and the art. It’s never predictable – that’s the way my houses are. I’m interested in the look of the times, certainly, but I love the patina of 150 years of neglect. I like to have a painting with scratch marks on it. It’s quite marvelous.


Delucie: Art is paramount in all of our restaurants – and your art always gets the biggest response from our guests. It’s whimsical and positive. When we had the painting of the rabbits on the walls, guests were asking me about them all the time.


Slonem: Well I definitely think those rabbits livened things up [laughs] That wall was quite memorable.



Delucie: How exactly would you describe your art?


Slonem: It’s a lifelong investigation of the exotic flora and fauna, mostly stemming from my childhood in Hawaii. I was always craving something other than pine trees. In my home, I have 60 parrots (mostly rescued), fish, a turtle, orchids, and palm trees. That kind of environment is my foothold of creative expression.


Delucie: Why do you paint so many Abraham Lincolns?


Slonem: Well, I’ve always painted Mary Todd Lincoln, who I was interested in as a user of psychics. She brought spiritualism to the White House during her husband’s reign. Mary Todd was everything I like: she dressed beautifully and didn’t care about the cost. Her husband has been channeled in my house and he’s had a lot to say to me over the years.


Delucie: So would you consider yourself a pop artist?


Slonem: I’ve been called all sorts of things…

Jeffery Jones

The Cali native brings a little sunshine

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Fashion and lifestyle photographer Jeffery Jones shares a selection of personal work and anecdotal stories from his camaraderie with Cali-native and long board legend Alex Knost, crochet artist/model Hildie Gifstad, and surfboard shaper Tanner Prairie.

The Italian Sojourn

Sightseeing in Italy, Hemingway-Style

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This Summer was a special one: I decided to take a left turn out of fashion and dedicate myself to my new travel project. It seemed as if the only way to stave off the panic of a crazed leap was to take off, Hemingway-style, to the continent. As I’m getting acquainted with my new Di Principe name, Italy was the obvious option.


We landed in Pisa, picked up our chariot (a tiny, white smart car) and set off in search of la Dolce Vita.  First to an artists’ commune in Tuscany. An old terracotta palazzo, filled with the ghosts of a grand past, was now embracing its more rough and ready future, playing host to Villa Lena’s artist residency. I arrived dreaming of writing in the rolling hills, but soon realized that nights echoing with cocktails and jam sessions would mean we just had to throw ourselves into the boarding school-like, bohemian family. There was no possibility of hiding alone in our room… And, as a large party of men in gold robes arrived from Florence, it seemed about time to take the smart car on the next battle of wits down the Italian autostrada towards Rome.


Our next stop was something a bit magical. Secretly, every girl wants to be a princess, somewhere deep down inside themselves. My dream is that of a Rapunzel waiting to be rescued, although I think my years of commitment to bleach at Vidal Sassoon means my hair wouldn’t really sustain the weight of a prince. Some girls might dream of being warrior princesses – maybe like a Mulan – which also works with this story.


Back to the present day, and a very kind invitation for a lucky English girl to visit the Italian Castello Ruspoli. It’s hard to describe the feeling of waking up and padding around barefoot in grand old 15th century entrance halls with doors that swing open onto drawbridges, or wondering how many mistresses had been shown through the hidden door in the ageing silk walls of our room. The effect of living in such obvious history is a strange one: half day-dream, half realizing that I’m just a speck of humanity resting in the castle’s walls.


But did I fall for it? Yes I did. Hook, line and sinker. The ease of living and the art of conversation, time to stop and smell the perfectly trimmed roses – all of this is what makes the society of old aristocracy so intoxicating. Our host Tao summed it up perfectly with a quote from his father, the legendary Prince and Don of the Dolce Vita, Dado Ruspoli, who once exclaimed to him in all seriousness: “Tao, I’m just so tired – there was lunch yesterday, now a dinner tonight”.


Next was the long road south, navigating Naples, staying in imp-like Trullo’s, and reaching the hot, white city of Lecce just in time for another festival: nights upon nights of local religious festivals light up Italy through the Summer months and into early Autumn, with young and old spilling into the streets and dancing until the early hours.


After all this drinking, eating and dancing we obviously needed a break, and at last we landed at Francis Ford Coppola’s perfect Palazzo Margherita hotel. Sofia was married in the gardens of this shuttered marble paradise. I travel a lot, but I have to say this might be my number one place on Earth for a second trip – perhaps stealing my heart as my all-time favorite hotel…


Just go see,


Ciao x

Peter Ash Lee

A Photo Diary of Peter's Trip to India

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Famed portrait photographer and co-founder of Corduroy magazine Peter Ash Lee shares a selection of images shot during his recent month-long backpacking trip to India. They include photos from the town of Pushkar, Hampi, Agra, Udaipur and Jaisalmer.