The ABC’s of Saigon After Dark

| Written by: Karen Hewell


A – Apocalypse Now!
It’s been open since 1991 — one of the oldest nightclubs in Ho Chi Minh City — and has earned itself the reputation of being all the right kinds of dark, grungy and totally awesome.

B – Blanchy’s Tash
When Blanchy’s Tash opened it stole away the Park Hyatt Martini bar clientele. The high end atmosphere attracts fashionistas, celebrities, advertising execs, expat business people and the nouvelle riche Vietnamese. They mix and mingle in their designer suits and designer dresses to resident DJs and the occasional international act such as Grandmaster Flash. This is where you go to be seen.

C – Cargo Bar
What do you get when you combine a warehouse, a killer sound system and some of the best international bands to grace the Saigon stage? You get Cargo Bar. If ever there was a hub in the city for international music, this is it.

D – Defunct, but Not Forgotten
Keepin’ things together in Saigon is no easy task, with many of the city’s best night hubs shutting their doors for good. The turn over is fast! Take the ultimate demise of Q-Bar,Hi-Fi, Cage and music café Geisha as proof.

E – Entrance Fees
50,000? 100,000? 200,000? 1,000,000? How much would you pay to go to a top notch event? This is the question that ever promoter in town asks. Entrance fees are a new thing to the Saigon nightlife scene and getting the crowd used to this new but internationally established idea is a difficult challenge to overcome. For promoters it’s a way for them to pay for the artists fees and all the costs that come with putting on an event. It’s a fine balance for many because if they charge too much the audience may not come, but if they charge too little, they may end up losing money. So all they can do is set a fee and hope the crowd supports by attending and paying.

F – Fuse
Technically there’s no dress code, but walk into Fuse with anything less than your best threads, and you’ll be put to shame by the hip local crowd that packs out the dance floor every weekend.

G – Gossip
A veteran on the Saigon nightlife scene, Gossip has kept up its reputation as one of the top and the longest established local danceclubs in Saigon. Bring on the bottle service! Bring on the fruit platter! Bring on the loud booming music, lasers and smoke! Recent renovations saw glittery gold geometric shapes on the outside and the inclusion of live music before established DJs take their spots behind the turntables at 11pm.

H – Hotel Bars
When you think nightlife, you don’t tend to think hotel bars, but these 5 star hotels have made reputations as the places to be for the chic new rising middle class Vietnamese. Level 23 at the Sheraton has a stunning rooftop view of the city and a house band playing covers all night long. 2 Lam Son is the Park Hyatt’s Martini bar. With a huge window facing the main streets of Saigon, it’s the place if you want to be seen sipping one the best martinis in town. Even Brangelina have been spotted there.

I – Indie Rock
At long last, indie rock is finally making an appearance on Saigon stages. Just take Cargo Bar’s recent guests Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Cairos as proof.

J – Jungle Parties
There haven’t been many but as soon as there’s a party in the outskirts of town then it brings all sorts out. The lastest one by Ecelectic Aesthetic held at a Thu Thiem fishing restaurant saw hundreds congregating to dance under the starry skies.

K – Karaoke
When it comes to late-night entertainment in Vietnam, karaoke rules, and the tone-deaf flourish. From the now defunct Saigon Dong Du hotel with its stunning city view of the Saigon River to the Nice Karaoke chains throughout the city. Score 100 and get a chance to win some kitschy prizes. And don’t forget the super chic Kingdom Karaoke. They have the latest top 40 hits alongside old favourites such as Country Road and We are the World.

L – La Fenetre Soleil and Lush
We just couldn’t decide between the two. They have both made a big impact on the scene in different ways.

La Fenetre Soleil is a hip café complete with antique furniture, high wood beam ceilings and chandelier lighting. But as soon as the sun sets, the disco ball comes out and it hosts some of the top underground nights around – from DJs to live bands both local and international.

Lush on the other hand has made a name for itself as being one of the best venues around for commercial dance music. Its legendary Ladies Night has been going strong for years and their hip Vietnamese crowd dance into the wee hours of the morning to top local and international DJs such as Diplo and Stanton Warriors.

M – Music
Music. It’s that simple. It’s all about the music.

N – Not a Bar (Broma)
Broma’s says it’s “not a bar”. That it’s more than just a bar. And from the time they opened they’ve proven just that. In less than 2 years they’ve built a strong reputation for their unique cocktails, rooftop and their impressive line up of parties – EADJ’s Electric Kicks, Groove Control and Lip Service, just to name a few.  Come for the music, stay for the rooftop.

O – Outcast
The initial concept was simple. Build a relaxed space from recycled materials such as freight containers and open it up for young skaterboarders and hip music enthusiasts. From there Saigon Outcast expanded to be one of the best outdoor venues around.. This District 2 gem hosts live music festivals, mini art festivals and film screenings. Oh, did we mention that the stage doubles as a skate ramp?

P – Pacharan
Part restaurant, part live-music spot, Pacharan is all the right amount of Spanish taste to go along with the spicy music — a DJ is heating things up every Wednesday and weekend — to make it a pretty great addition to the nocturnal Saigon map.

Q – Where are the Queer venues?
Before Q-Bar shut its doors a few years back, it was the unofficial queer bar to hit. After they closed their doors, promoters such as Bitch Saigon hit the scene, putting on highly successful queer nights at venues such as Centro and Republic.

R – Rockfan Club
Before there was the venue, there were the events. Rockfan Club started out just as it names suggests. A club for rock fans. They held rock events and festivals throughout the city before branching out and opening their own space. Rockfan Club is a local favorite for finding the less-than-mainstream on stage as they tear it up.

S – Sin Lounge
It’s not uncommon to watch a Porsche or Bentley roll up to Sin Lounge on a nightly basis. With a penchant for extravagance and no-holds-barred luxury, this place is not for the beer drinkers. Be ready to throw down for a whole bottle of something swanky.

U – Underground Rising…
The mainstream bubblegum pop still rules the Vietnam airwaves, but there’s a few encouraging signs of the burgeoning underground scene making it big. Festivals like Rockstorm and Hardcore Vietnam are bringing a new edge to live music, and they’re not exactly apologetic about it.

V – Vasco’s
Vasco’s has been on the Saigon music map for quite a while, establishing itself as a favorite for night owls with near-nightly DJs spinning. In its heyday, Vasco’s was THE place to be on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. Its packed out Thursday became the start of the weekend for many. DJ Jase got his Saigon start at its original venue on Cao Ba Quat Street and soon after held its regular nights at its Hai Ba Trung location. Vasco’s has hosted some of the best quality parties in Saigon from Handsome Furs to Onra to DJ Premier. It has since lost a bit of its edge but is slowly trying to make its comeback.

W – WE Lounge
WE Lounge. It’s big. It’s swanky. It’s awe-inspiring. WE is the place to go to when you crave some high quality Vietnamese mainstream music. The music ranges from new contemporary songs through to nostalgic prewar tunes. WE showcases live performances by some of the best Vietnamese voices that have been conquering audiences throughout the decades.

X – XU Lounge
XU lounge doesn’t like your flip-flops and tank tops, but they do dig awesome music.. Think swanky, trendy and pumping with live music on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Y – Yoko Bar
Sometimes described as a hipster-hub, one thing that Yoko definitely has is one of the most recognized stages in the city. Local bands and international outfits alike play this District 3 stage.

Z – ZZZ’s
Once the partying is done, the only thing left to do is to catch up on your Zzzz’s.