Photo by Owen Salisbury

Expats have bars in this country that are for, well, expats. Owen Salisbury takes three Vietnamese university students round the bars to see how they, and the bars, fare

Photo by Julie Vola

Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait

Photo by Bao Zoan

It’s a Friday night in Qui, Trinh Lai’s latest creation, and the place is pumping. In the ground-floor lounge bar and top-end yet casual restaurant located on the premises that once housed Sin Lounge, the clientele is a mix of young 20- and 30-something Vietnamese, internationally minded foreigners not stuck on their beer, and people who like the nightclub-esque atmosphere of a club in the environs of a beautifully crafted bar.

In Hanoi’s halcyon days after doi moi, the city rose at 5am and went to bed at 9pm. There were few restaurants, no bars beyond the staple bia hoi, and little to occupy the restless soul. By the mid-1990s there was a smattering of international restaurants, the odd bar, and the start of something akin to nightlife. By the turn of the century, this had gone up another notch or two. But beyond the odd band night — the Filipino bands had yet to infiltrate the city — there was little live music and only a few DJs, mainly local.

Photo by Rodney Hughes

Behind the antics of District 2’s quirkiest hang-out, Saigon Outcast, is Linh Nguyen, though he is the last person who would ever tell you that. Typically seen cleaning up, helping behind the bar, or making sure the place runs smoothly, Linh is a man who always has time to stop and chat. His accent has a mild southern English lilt and his eyes are constantly wide with excitement at the prospect of another project.

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