Chinese Medicine: Ancient Hero or Modern Villain?

By: Chris Baker

On a trip to Cat Ba Island a few months ago I got chatting to a very charming and energetic local Vietnamese man who I guessed was around 40 years old. In fact he turned out to be in his mid-50s. I’m sure that you will have had similar experiences of being impressed by Vietnamese people’s ability to delay the ageing process. He put this down to 2 things: eating monkey meat for strength (flexing his impressive muscles to prove this) and drinking snake whisky to maintain a healthy spine.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tells us that monkey brain can make you more intelligent and tiger penis enhances sexual virility

There was no doubt that this guy was in great physical shape. Monkey, like all meat, contains a lot of protein which helps to build muscle. Coupled with regular exercise this could contribute to staying strong. Drinking snake whisky to keep a healthy back was less easy to explain. I asked more about it. Pointing to his spine he fetched a bottle containing a coiled specimen surrounded by brown liquid. But I was still confused. Where could such a belief stem from? I came up with an explanation on the way back to my hotel - snakes are basically one long spine with a head plonked on the end. The logic being that the snake’s spinal flexibility was absorbed by the whisky and then transferred to the drinker. Using the same thought process, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tells us that monkey brain can make you more intelligent and tiger penis enhances sexual virility.

Photo by: Victoria Reay

A number of doctors in the UK have slammed the Prince of Wales’ proposal, saying it would add credibility to an unproven pseudoscientific version of medicine

TCM is believed to have originated about 3000 years ago, refined by trial and error to take a basic version of its current form 1,000 years later. It is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, even gaining positive academic attention from Middlesex University (ranked as number 75 in The Guardian’s list of top UK universities for 2013) that now offers a 4-year BSc course in the subject. The study, in partnership with the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, includes placements in UK government-funded hospitals. The Prince of Wales, Britain’s next king, is a keen supporter of alternative medicine and has called for it to be regulated in the same way that mainstream medicine is. So, TCM is backed by significant support, but does that mean that it works? After all, a number of doctors in the UK have slammed the Prince of Wales’ proposal, saying it would add credibility to an unproven pseudoscientific version of medicine.

Not only might some TCMs not work, a number are known to contain toxic substances such as heavy metals. These could actually cause harm to the patient and complicate the recovery when used alongside effective medicine or speeding up the decline when used alone. Sweet berry is commonly prescribed by herbalists to patients as an anti-rheumatic. Although painful, arthritis is not a life threatening illness. However, methyl salicylate is found in sweet berry and if taken at high enough doses it can be fatal. So, taking too much of what might seem like a harmless holistic medicine could do you serious damage. But take an overdose of the most common modern drugs found in a home’s medicine cupboard and you could die, too. Whilst this is true, we know how much of a modern drug to take because toxicologists test it in clinical trials and the resulting safety information is displayed on the label. TCM products are not regulated so strictly. In the name of safety rather than credibility, perhaps Prince Charles is right in calling for regulations to be tightened on holistic medicine.

 

Photo by: egorgrebnev

During its 3000 year development, TCM has found lots of plants that do have healing powers. Indeed lots of modern medicines, including the world’s most important malaria drug, have been developed from ancient Chinese remedies. We owe a lot to the early herbalists who discovered the medical properties of Chinese sweet wormwood (the plant from which is extracted), particularly given that UNICEF lists malaria as the largest killer of children worldwide.Modern medicine has found the active ingredient and packaged it into handy pill form, thus rendering the previous version redundant. It would be even better if the scientists could synthesis rather than simply isolating it and so end the need for expensive extraction processes. This has been done for acid (UDCA), a chemical used to treat hepatitis C that was developed from TCM. By synthesizing UDCA in the laboratory, pharmacologists have shed the need for the raw material – bear bile.

Bear bile farms are some of the most horrifically cruel places imaginable

Bear bile farms are some of the most horrifically cruel places imaginable. Asiatic black bears (otherwise known as moon bears due to the yellow patterning on their chest) are kept in cages just a little bigger than their bodies for up to 25 years. Often these are “crush cages”, designed to be so short that the bear is pinned to the base thus giving farmers easier access to its gall bladder. Bears are milked for their bile twice a day through a permanently open wound in the abdomen. Apart from the mental trauma inflicted, physical damage includes liver cancer, blindness, necrotic ingrown claws, infected ulcers and missing teeth from either biting the cage bars or because the farmer has removed them to make the bear less dangerous.

Photo by: Matteo X

Bear farms were made illegal in Vietnam in 1992 and China hasn’t issued a license since 1994, but current estimates suggest that there are 12,000 farmed individuals in these two countries alone, with more in Korea and Laos. One might expect that because we can now sythesise the active ingredient found in bear bile demand should be decreasing. In fact, as with the general popularity of TCM, the opposite is true. Bear bile is expensive, costing around US$3,000 per kilogram. With the growing number of rich in Asia, more people can afford it. There’s an element of showing off here, with some of the new social elite taking bile to prevent a hangover, mirroring the increased use of rhino horn for the same reason. It is also claimed to be an aphrodisiac, as so many TCMs are. But for these claims there is no scientific evidence.

But here, efforts are being made... We no longer depend on TCM but a future for endangered species depends on its demise

It seems like an impossible task to change attitudes based upon a belief system that has been part of Asian culture for three millennia. But here, efforts are being made. Vietnam banned massage oil containing bear bile and authorities have acknowledged a need to get rid of the misconception that rhino horn cures cancer. Such steps, if continued, will lead to the eventual demise of this dated discipline. If you want to get stronger, lift weights and drink protein shakes. If you lack sexual virility, consult a legitimate doctor who may prescribe Viagra. We no longer depend on TCM but a future for endangered species depends on its demise.

Header photo by: Spot Us


Weather in Saigon: The Best Time to Visit South Vietnam's Megacity

By: Fabrice Turri

People keep asking me: when is the best time to travel to Saigon? When to visit Vietnam? If you, too, want to know what the climate is like in Ho Chi Minh City before you take the plane, here's all the information you need about the weather in South Vietnam.

Average rainfall and humidity in Saigon

The climate of South Vietnam is subequatorial, meaning there are high year-round temperatures and two seasons – rainy and dry. So when is the best time of the year to travel to Saigon and Mekong Delta?

The offical dry season lasts from December to April. Temperatures are temperate at first but can climb up to 40°C at the end of April while remaining very humid. The rainy season in turn, which runs from May to November, is characterized by violent but brief showers.

The best time to visit Saigon runs from December to March

In Saigon, the annual average temperature is 27°C and never falls below 15°C. The best time to visit the city runs from December to March when it is dry and sunny. February is the month when it rains the least of the year while March and April are the hottest months with an average of 36 to 38°C.

Average temperature in Saigon through the year

temperature in Saigon thought the year

If you are generally interested in the climate of Vietnam, check out our article about the best time to visit Vietnam. We also have a section about the weather of Hanoi, for those among you who are more into the North. Check it out!

The wettest period is from July to September

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the rain can bring a welcome drop in temperature. The heaviest rains occur between mid-August and mid-September and many of the streets in the city will be flooded at this time.

Rain in Saigon

Average rainfall and humididy

Average rainfall and humidity in Saigon

This problem is exacerbated by the gradual sinking of the most populous city in Vietnam.

Research has shown that Saigon is slowly sinking due to mass urbanization and excessive pumping of groundwater, with some places sinking up to 20 millimeters per year.

But the greatest threat comes from the coastline. 90% of the Mekong Delta and more than 20% of Ho Chi Minh City will be flooded by 2100 if the sea water level rises 1 meter.

If you don't have the choice about your holiday dates, we still recommend you to come to Vietnam, but you should prefer visiting areas such as Nha Trang where the rain is much lower. 


Top 5 tips to rent a motorbike in Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

Renting a motorbike is a great opportunity to get off the beaten track and discover Vietnam on your own. That is if you are able to deal with the manic traffic and less than stringent road rules.

There are many places in tourist areas such as Pham Ngu Lao in Ho Chi Minh City and the Old Quarter in Hanoi that rent bikes to foreigners. You will need to fill out a form to rent the bike along with leaving your passport as a deposit and most places offer a selection of manual shift and automatic shift motorbikes. The rentals will also come with a helmet and remember that helmet use is mandatory in Vietnam.

So if you have the intestinal fortitude to get on the open road, we have compiled together a few tips for you to make your experience a bit smoother.

Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Check your bike

Test the your turn signals and lights and take a quick test drive around the block. Finding out that your front brakes are a bit dodgy a mile down the road isn’t ideal so check it out first.When parking in a public lot, don’t lose that ticket. If you lose it, you will need to verify the ownership of the bike, which means contacting the place you rented the bike. Which brings me to number 3.

2. Get the rental agency’s contact details

This could be a lifesaver if your bike breaks down.

3. Make sure your helmet is in good order

If you feel it’s a bit dodgy, request a new one. If they refuse, head down to the next shop.

4. Anticipate your surroundings

Vietnamese drivers don’t really use their wing mirrors so watch out for the traffic ahead of you. Also, slow down through intersections as stopping at a red is more like a guideline as opposed to a rule.


Local insight:
While manual shift bikes go for VND100,000/day (~$5/day), automatics will run you a bit more at around VND120,000/day (~$6/day).

If you need some tips and advices to help you choose the right motorbike for you, you can also read our guide: Tips for Renting or Buying the Right Motorbike in Vietnam.


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Are you insane enough to drive in Saigon

Top 5 tips for crossing the street in Vietnam

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We've Been Duped About Vietnam Travel for Too Long

By: Patrick Gaveau

Travel is my field, with 64 countries under my belt. Those who know me well enough would also say that I am a cosmopolitan individual, for good reason.

My dear mum was born and raised in India. My hunting dad lived 45 years across Africa. My beloved grandmother was sent across the globe with her parents and diplomat husband. As a professional athlete, I covered five continents. I also followed two masters degrees in tourism, one in sociology and one in economy.

My research and the consulting work that resulted focused on marketing and sustainable developments for tourism destinations. Upon arriving in Vietnam, I began as a sales and marketing director for a local travel operator. Three years later, we launched the City Pass Saigon Guidebook. Today, Citypassguide.com carries over 100,000 pages of relevant content about Vietnam. So with all that I have learned over the years, let’s clarify the true meaning of travelling in Vietnam.

Most people imagine that Vietnam is scenic north to south, overwhelmed with exquisite landscapes and attractions. I challenge these basic ideas, and for me, travel is in fact a lot more than gazing at poorly managed attractions. The traveller is active, he searches for people and experiences, while the tourist is passive and expects interesting things to happen to him.

With passive tourists, there continues to be too many who still sense Vietnam as being so unique, preserved and authentic that it will impart its effects automatically on them, leaving an everlasting impression. They persist in being blind to the realm of a crushing modernity that erases rapidly most traces of a distant past.

When travelling, let's remember that a foreign country is not designed to make us comfortable. It is conceived to make its own people at ease. And trust is that what makes Vietnam a remarkable place to be, is its humanity, first and foremost. We all travel for some sort of fulfillment, right? It is often the result of combined experiences and emotions often filled by the human encounters and its attached simplicity - something common in Vietnam’s daily life. It is an excellent feed for our souls and well-being. Preserving this part of the local culture is essential for the industry and the generations to come.

What is in fact so prized, but unrecognised, is its appealing cuisine. Vietnam is a country with rich cuisine, unique to each region. “Why can’t Vietnam, with its reputation for rich, diverse culinary cuisine, and a plentiful food source, become a kitchen or a food warehouse for the world?” says Philip Kotler. How can we strive to unify the rustic dishes under a single national identity so that the world begins to value Vietnamese cuisine for what it is worth?

Mr. Sang Ly who sponsors the Golden Spoon Awards stated that, “we as a country have not yet properly introduced the world to the versatility of our food. It’s already recognised that other culinary giants like Italy, France, China or Thailand have different types of food per region. Vietnam is very much the same, but I don’t come across many people who know this.” Yes, street food is acclaimed but fine food has a long way to go. And most continue to miss this essential part of the travel experience that makes Vietnam so special.

At Citypassguide.com, we aim to present an authentic voyage of discovery, created with extensive help from local residents and experts. This voyage not only consists of seeking new landscapes, but casting new eyes on the destinations you probably know already. It’s a re-envisioned way of travelling Vietnam.


Tips for Winning Big at The Grand Club Casino in Saigon

By: Molly Headley

There’s such a thing as ‘beginner’s luck’—the rookie who bowls a perfect strike or the first time gambler who lands on 21 straight away. However, for those of you who actually want to have a bit more strategy to win big at the casino games at the Grand Club in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, read on.

We’ve compiled a list of tips for how to bet well, have fun and perhaps walk away with some cash or play vouchers to show for it. If you’re looking for something new to do in District 1 in Saigon, love free cocktails and have a bit of money to spend, then Grand Club casino in Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect choice for you.

The Rules Rule at the Grand Club Casino in Saigon

It may go without saying but if you want to do well at any casino game in Vietnam, you should first brush up on the rules. Whether you’re playing Blackjack, Baccarat, Roulette or even the slot machines, if you don’t know what your objective is, you won’t get very far. Few of of us will ever be as adept at card counting as Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” and luck can only go so far.

Blackjack Casino Game Rules

After slot machines, Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in Vietnam and worldwide for a reason. It’s easy to understand and your odds are good! Another plus, is that the play is fast, making this an excellent choice for players who want to pass by the Grand Club during their lunch break or for those who are looking for a fun, fast-paced gamble with colleagues after work.

Regardless of whether you play at a casino with a live dealer, at an e-gaming club or gamble online, the rules are pretty much the same. The only difference between e-Blackjack and live Blackjack is that at an e-gaming club such as the Grand Club the cards and dealer are electronic and are part of the computer interface. However, the game has the same advantages as live Blackjack at a casino.

grand club

The basics of Blackjack are that each player receives two cards, as does the dealer. The players can choose to add more cards (hit) or keep the cards that they have (stay) to get as close as they can to a card total of 21 without going over (busting). The suites (Hearts, Spades, Aces and Diamonds) have no effect on the game.

For example, if you have a 10 of Spades and a 9 of Hearts the grand total will equal 19, which is getting dangerously close to 21. Common sense says that you should ‘stay’, whereas if you have a 4 of Diamonds and a 2 of Spades, totaling 6, it is a good idea to ‘hit’.

If the player gets closer to 21 than the dealer, and doesn’t go ‘bust’ while trying, they will win the hand.

How to Win at Blackjack at the Grand Club Casino in Saigon

One of the reasons that some players swear by Blackjack in Vietnam is that the ‘house edge’ swings towards the player because they can base their strategy on probability rather than just pure luck. When the deck is full of high cards (aces, queens, kings etc.) the player has the advantage.

Some players claim to be able to count the cards to know when the deck is stacked in their favour but these professional players are few and far between. A safer bet is to just play smart. Here is a handy chart you can reference if you want to win big at Blackjack at any casino in Vietnam and the rest of the world.

Baccarat Casino Game Rules

Baccarat is hands down the most popular casino game in Vietnam and across Asia, largely due to its huge presence in Macau, sometimes known as “the gambling capital of the world”.

A game of Baccarat has three possible outcomes: player wins, banker wins or tie. Two cards are dealt out to each player and whoever gets closest to 9 wins. The fun part lies in choosing which hand you’ll bet on prior to seeing the cards. Players can bet either on the ‘player hand’ or the ‘banker’ (dealer) hand. So if you are not feeling your luck you can always bet against yourself!

grand club

Contrary to Blackjack, there is no way to ‘bust’. If the cards that are dealt total more than 9, you simply add the two numbers together and drop the first digit.

For example:
8 + 4 = 12. Drop the 1 to get 2.
10 + 9 = 19. Drop the 1 to get 9.

If the player’s cards total five or less, the player will receive another card. Otherwise, the player will stand.

How to Win at Baccarat at the Grand Club Casino in Saigon

Here are some tips to help you master your game of e-Baccarat at the Grand Club.

- Baccarat is a game of chance. The only real way to ensure you walk away with winnings is to wait until you’re ahead and call it quits.

- What to do if you’re on a losing streak? Just keep playing. Eventually, the hand will fall in your favour and you can slowly win back what you’ve lost. Ideally, you’ll have a budget for the game that is big enough to support you on a short losing streak.

- Don’t bet on Tie. The odds of both player and banker hitting the same number is low so there is no reason to base your odds on a long shot.

Roulette Casino Game Rules

Roulette seems simple and that is part of what makes it fun. Pick your numbers or colours, place your bet and watch the wheel spin. Winning at Roulette really depends on your luck but a bit of savvy is still essential to playing the game well.

Even though you have no control over where the ball lands on the wheel, you can still control how much you bet and what type of bet to place. This is where skill really comes into play.

Before diving into the techniques for playing let’s brush up on the basics.

E-Roulette and normal Roulette differ only in the fact that instead of having a live dealer (otherwise known as a croupier) spin the wheel, in e-Roulette the ball is automatically sent into the wheel. At that point in both versions of the game, the ball spins around the outer rim of the wheel and eventually falls into one of 37 pockets numbered from 0 to 36. Each pocket alternates between the colours red or black, except for the number 0, which is usually green.

grand club

Before each spin of the Roulette wheel, players can place bets around the table and bet on a single number, a combination of numbers or even a colour.

Check this guide to see some of the possible bets and to help you win the next time you head to the casino. 

How to Win at Roulette at the Grand Club Casino in Saigon

Placing your Roulette bets intelligently is all based on odds. If you choose to put all your money on an individual number your payout will be bigger if you win. However, your odds of winning are much lower than if you decide to place your bets on several numbers or a colour at once.

Remember that like a coin toss the outcome of the next spin of the Roulette wheel is never affected by what came before. So even though it may seem impossible for the Roulette wheel to land on a 5 three times in a row, in Roulette nothing is impossible. Your betting strategy should be based on how much you have to spend and how quickly you want to blow through it in an attempt to win big.

The best odds you can get at a Roulette table are roughly 50/50. These bets are called ‘outside bets’ and if you are a bit risk averse this is the best place to put your money. Some outside bets include betting on a colour (red vs. black), even vs. odd numbers, or lows vs. highs (1 to 19 or 19 to 36). However, since you have a bigger chance of winning one of these bets, your payout will also be less.

An ‘inside’ bet gives you a greater return for your money but very steep odds. Single number bets, which are also known as ‘straight-up’ or classic bets, are a good example of a long shot. Players may wager on that number by placing their Roulette chips on top of the number and if they win then the bet pays out 35-1.

The bottom line is that we’ve all seen the movies set in Vegas where a character throws all caution to the wind and bets his/her life savings on a random number then walks away rich. However, as a Roulette technique this type of strategy is more likely to empty your pockets than fill them. Just like with any casino game in Vietnam, if you bet smart and slow it will not only make you a better player, it will also give you the time you need to be able to sit back and enjoy the Grand Club’s atmosphere without striking out on the first game.

The beauty of Roulette is that each player can put in as much or as little as they are willing to spend (as long as the player meets the table limit).

How to Win a Casino Jackpot at the Grand Club Slots in Saigon

Playing the slots is one of the most popular casino games in Vietnam. The Grand Club has more than 69 slot machines to choose from such as Aristocrat, Bally, WMS, IGT and Weike. Each machine has its own style but the general idea is that you take a spin of the dial in the hope that luck will be in your favour and that you will line up a certain amount of icons in a row. Everyone loves the clink and clatter of a big win at one of the slot machines as the coins or tokens pour out of the machine. Some players have certain techniques for making the slots fall in their favour such as playing several machines at once, or always using the same trusty machine that gave them a big pay day in the past. However, there is no real strategy to winning at slot machines, it’s a game of pure luck.

grand club

However, at the Grand Club the slot machines are the most popular type of casino game for a reason: there is a good chance of winning a jackpot!

The best part about the Grand Club jackpot is that the more money that gets put into the pot the greater your chance of winning. Depending on how much is wagered, jackpots can build up every hour all day long. There is no limit to how much you can bet or how much you can win.

The jackpot at the Grand Club is also a fun thing to try to win with colleagues or a group of friends. If you and your entourage all gather around the slots and bet on the jackpot, one of you has a good chance of walking away with a pile of casino cash.

Come to the Grand Club in Saigon for the Best Casino Games and Membership Benefits

Now that you’ve brushed up on all the rules and top strategies for winning at the Grand Club’s casino games, you should be ready to have some fun and make some money. The best part? Not only do you have a chance to win every time you play but you can also build up valuable membership benefits regardless of your luck. Ask your host or hostess at the Grand Club for more information about the membership benefits so that you can get to work accumulating prizes like play vouchers, spa treatments, and free stays at the Grand hotel.

Whether or not you’re on a winning streak there is always fun to be had at the Grand Club. Grab a free cocktail, some complimentary snacks and get ready for some excitement playing the best casino games in Vietnam at the Grand Club in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1.

* Grand Club and all casinos in Vietnam are open to foreign passport holders only.

Video source: City Pass Guide

Image source: Grand Club


Understanding the Ecosystem that is Saigon’s Nightlife

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Some cities around the world are well known for their nightlife culture and history. Berlin is known for its techno clubs and crazy parties, Amsterdam is popular for its trance events, and you can find some of the craziest marathon parties in Ibiza.

Although Asian cities have their fair share of popular events such as the legendary psytrance parties in Goa or the full moon parties in Koh Phangan, it wasn’t until recently that nightlife was established as an institution and a pull factor for tourism for some parts of Asia.

When “nightlife” is mentioned in Southeast Asia, many would point you towards the scene in Bangkok which has blossomed over the years, ranging from the infamous ladies’ bars to franchised international music festivals. However, not many would have realised by now that on the other side of the Southeast Asian peninsula, Vietnam, especially Saigon, is quickly gaining a reputation for providing the region with one of the most diverse nightlife scenes, with an increasing number of international DJs and producers performing live shows of various genres and subgenres in an increasing number of clubs and rooftop bars across the city.

And this is even before mentioning the home-grown, high-energy Vinahouse scene.

But when did it all start?

The evolution of the city’s nightlife scene is as dramatic as the history of the city itself. During the American War, the city saw a sizeable population of foreign journalists residing here as correspondents. They mostly frequented hotel bars, sipping on cocktails while churning out news reports pertaining to the war. Hotel Majestic, The Rex and The Caravelle were some of the most popular with the latter subsequently becoming the unofficial American media headquarters, as described in a journal written by Steve Somerville, a former correspondent for Reuters based in Vietnam.

evolution nightlife in saigonImage source: The Rex Hotel

However, nightlife in that era wasn’t just limited to foreign journalists. Back when Dong Khoi Street was still known as Rue Catinat, and subsequently Tu Do Street, there was a buzz developing in that area. Live music acts dominated stages across the stretch and one of the venues that achieved iconic status among the in-crowd was Tu Do Nightclub, at the junction of the present Dong Khoi and Dong Du Streets.

Tu Do Nightclub was the nightlife institution of that era. The club brought together American and Vietnamese patrons looking for great live music courtesy of legendary performers like Tuan Ngoc and Khanh Ly, among many others.

However, the facade and ceiling of Saigon’s nightlife was blown off unexpectedly in September 1971 when a bomb went off inside the club, killing 15 and injuring 57 others. This sounded the death knell of the music scene and nightlife in the city.

As post-war Vietnam grappled with economic sanctions and poverty, priorities were shifted towards survival and not much information has been recorded nor revealed about nightlife before the Doi Moi era.

Sowing the seeds

With Doi Moi, Vietnam embraced a free market economy in the late ’80s and early ’90s, effectively marking its growth as a nation. It also saw an increasing number of foreign businesses setting up base here. The city saw the return of establishments catering to music, alcohol and entertainment. One remnant from that generation that is still going strong is Apocalypse Now.

evolution nightlife in saigonImage source: Apocalypse Now

As the 2000s rapidly streamed past us, technology started shrinking things and music production tools got condensed into computer software programs. Young Vietnamese musicians eager to create their own sound began producing their own brand of electronic music designed to give you that extra pump in life and soon enough, Vinahouse was born. Its polarising reach did not stop beer clubs from popping up all across the city, much to the delight of young locals with a penchant for loud music and towers of booze.

Electronic music had, by 2010, become a global trend and Vietnam embraced it wholeheartedly. This also coincided with Saigon’s magnificent economic growth resulting in an increasing number of foreigners living and working here. In what could be seen as a genuine exchange of culture, they brought along their favourite music to the city. Clubs, lounges, bars and rooftop bars started opening across the city, providing a diverse range of music, both mainstream and underground.

According to Dan Bimong, founder of The Observatory, “I started The Observatory with the idea of having a venue where we can invite artists from all around the world that fit with my musical perspective that is clearly focused on a wide range of house, disco, techno and affiliated sounds”.

evolution nightlife in saigonImage source: The Observatory

At the turn of this decade, those genres were still only limited to small parties within common circles, mainly among expats.

“The idea was also to have a place that is fully dedicated to that activity with a decent sound system and a programme with international guests every weekend in order to give the opportunity for the city to see artists that never had the chance to come to play in Vietnam”, he added.

A thriving ecosystem

While clubs like Envy, SkyXX, Kasho and Chill SkyBar serve those who are looking for the mainstream EDM club experience, venues like Lush and Piu Piu go one step further by organising themed events featuring specific genres of music like hip hop and bass music. The Lighthouse and Arcan cater to those who are looking for purely underground electronic music genres like techno, house, drum & bass and psytrance with plenty of independently organised events featuring international DJs.

evolution nightlife in saigonImage source: Arcan

Teams like The Beats Saigon, dOSe, Jetlag, Heart Beat, Techno.vn and many others have been responsible for most of the movement in the city’s underground electronic music scene.

There has also been a massive increase in the number of young Vietnamese DJs and music producers in the city mainly due to a rising level of awareness and interest, with DJ academies run by organisations like Pioneer Music catering to them. This has created a revolving door of talented DJs playing in clubs across the country, performing alongside experienced foreign DJs currently living in Saigon, and even touring the region.

Locally produced music festivals have also brought big-name DJs and producers like Deadmau5, Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, Hardwell and Steve Angello to the city, playing to large crowds.

Beyond the flashing lights and pulsating basslines, other components of nightlife have also started to gain traction here, from speakeasy bars to craft beers. Establishments like Drinking & Healing, Snuffbox and Firkin have provided residents and tourists with bespoke cocktails created by skilled bartenders and mixologists, all accompanied by specially curated music.

evolution nightlife in saigonImage source: Drinking & Healing

Homegrown breweries like Heart of Darkness, East West, Te Te, Winking Seal and at least a dozen others have opened more than just venues for beer aficionados. They have also created a scene that’s slowly gaining global recognition.

How far will it go?

Since nightlife is constantly evolving in Saigon, it has already started playing a significant role in the tourism industry with music lovers from across the continent travelling here to check out the increasingly vibrant nightlife scene in the city.

“We have noticed it at The Observatory while talking to our customers. Almost every weekend, we meet people from Hong Kong, Singapore or Bangkok just to name a few cities, who come here to enjoy our vibrant nightlife. It’s definitely growing, so let’s see what will happen in the next few years”, added Dan Bimong.

From the chaotic backpacker-filled bars of Bui Vien Street to glossy speakeasy bars, EDM clubs and rooftop bars, Saigon’s nightlife can be described as an ecosystem catering to almost everyone—locals as well as foreigners.

evolution nightlife in saigonImage source: zing.vn

However, whether the city’s nightlife evolves into a global institution or not will still heavily depend on factors such as its reputation, safety and security, quality of music, the people to keep it running and of course, the authorities.

But as of now, it’s back to being one of the most vibrant in Southeast Asia.

Banner Image source: shutterstock

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