Vietnam has heaps of options for entertainment; karaoke bars, live music, theatre, comedy shows and an expanding nightlife, to name but a few.
Here’s what our survey respondents (about 200 of them) make of the entertainment scene, and how it has changed in recent years.
Respondents were presented with the following five statements focusing on entertainment, and asked whether they agree, disagree or don’t care.
1) There are more entertainment options where I live than five years ago
2) The entertainment options are better where I live than five years ago
3) Tickets for live international acts are too expensive
4) I am satisfied with the entertainment options where I live
5) I support local celebrities more than international celebrities
Nearly 80% of respondents either agree or strongly agree that there are more entertainment options where they live in Vietnam than five years ago.
Although it seems the majority still view Ho Chi Minh City as more of an entertainment and nightlife hub, there is a general consensus that Hanoi is catching up. For example, Hanoi’s 11pm curfew is not enforced so strongly any more, and now has options such as paintball, ice-skating and a range of modern cinemas and bars.
Is it really progress, though?
“Three hundred more karaoke bars is technically more entertainment options,” said one respondent, “but I personally find all that wailing a bit too much.”
With the expanded quantity and variety of entertainment options generally accepted as progress, the number of people who think the options are better than they were five years ago sits at just below 70%.
Several respondents cite the closure of Hanoi Cinematheque as an example of the declining quality of options.
The nightlife isn’t really tickling many taste buds, either, it seems.
“Not everyone wants to hear boom boom music,” says one respondent.
“Too much of people mistaking things that are trippy for things that are actually cool,” adds another.
When it comes to buying tickets for live international acts, an equal number of respondents agree and disagree that tickets are too expensive.
The majority, 43% to be exact, answered “don’t care.”
There are multiple reasons for this, but most of them follow the following reasoning:
“It’s not like I want to see The Scorpions, Kenny G or Boney M, anyway,” says one.
“It’s rare for a worthwhile international act to come here,” adds another.
Ciaran O’Connell, CEO and founder of Vibration Hanoi, one of the biggest music event planners in Vietnam, has his own theory on this. “The Vietnamese market is a bit behind the rest of the world in music taste,” he suggests.
“Local tastes are expanding, and subcultures are forming; but at this point it’s still in an infant stage.”
Because of this, Ciaran believes big international artists do not see a big enough market to support the costs of bringing a tour here.
Overall, 45% of respondents report feeling satisfied with the entertainment options where they live, while 43% report the opposite.
“I live in southern Dong Da, Hanoi… pretty boring,” says one respondent. Well, move somewhere more interesting then.
Several comments suggest a lack of good live music, and a priority for thumping club music over more cultural or artistic entertainment.
Others, however, are more optimistic.
“It’s what you make it,” suggests one happy-go-lucky respondent.
“There are a good number of music venues,” says one respondent, “but many of the bands are underwhelming.”
The indifference in the room is palpable; an impressive 53% of those we surveyed couldn’t care less about local or international celebrities.
“Not interested in celebrities at all,” says one.
“Local celebrities are just as bad as international ones; but with less leaked sex tapes,” adds another.
Several people put their indifference down to a matter of taste, suggesting that perhaps a whole flock of Vietnamese music stars singing the same song about mending a broken heart or how beautiful the valleys of Ha Giang are, isn’t so appealing.
“Vietnam continues to surprise me with cool gimmicks.”
“In the last few years, the quality and frequency of shows, gigs and nights out appear to have nosedived greatly.”
“R.I.P. Hanoi Cinematheque.”
“There’s much to choose from, which will cater to your fancy.”
“There aren’t any international acts I care about seeing.”
“CAMA and other groups like Saigon International Comedy go to great lengths to get people here.”
“I have an iPhone and an internet connection; why would I need to go out?”
“I live in District Two, and love the options I have!”
“I would like to support local celebrities, but I just can’t understand them.”
“International and local acts are both limited; for example, the drag scene in Hanoi has yet to find footing.”
Photo by Julie Vola