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Celebrities' night out in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam's rich, famous and fashionable pick their spots for staying up late in Ho Chi Minh, a city swiftly emerging as a top Asian nightspot as the authorities relax the drinking laws
The nightlife Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) has always been a bit up and down. Recently the authorities have lightened up and allowed venues to stay open later, now as late as 2 a.m. instead of midnight. This has allowed the club and bar scene to flourish. Here, three of Ho Chi Minh City’s most stylish celebrities recommend their picks for downtown evening entertainment.
Johnny Tri Nguyen, Actor
Often referred to as the country’s own Brad Pitt, Vietnamese-American actor Johnny Tri Nguyen is Vietnam’s hottest rising star.
Nguyen left Vietnam aged nine, settling in Orange County with his family. He began studying martial arts before that, aged six. “First I learned the family martial art created by my grandfather, then a few years later aikido, kung fu, wushu -- I was a competitor on the U.S. national team. I trained in tae kwon do after I stated doing stunts. When I came back to Vietnam l learned the Vietnam stuff and then later on some muay Thai.”
Nguyen’s successful career as a stuntman has included films like "Spiderman (1 & 2)" and "Jarhead". “My first acting break was a small part in ‘Cradle 2 the Grave’ with Jet Li.” He later received international attention as a villain in Thai film “Tom Yum Goong” (released in the United Statess “The Protector”) with Tony Jaa.
After re-settling in Vietnam in 2005, Nguyen released six films, frequently co-starring with singer-actress Ngo Thanh Van and Dustin Nguyen ("21 Jump Street", "Little Fish"). “The Rebel” (2007), starring all three, is available in the United States on DVD. His latest film “Clash” was featured at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Johnny's pick: Lush
“I’m not really much of a partier,” admits Johnny Tri Nguyen, “but whenever friends come to town we’ll often go to Lush.”
Lush is sandwiched between the city’s Japanese district and the riverside botanical gardens. The most cosmopolitan of Ho Chi Minh's dance clubs, the lower-level hip-hop, R&B and house-fueled dance floor is always crowded with an even mix of sharply-dressed young Vietnamese and expats. Great food and drinks are available at the plush balcony couches.
More info: Lush Saigon, 2 Ly Tu Trong, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Tel: +84 (0) 8 3824 2496. No cover charge. Smart dress may be required on busy nights. Happy hour before 9:30 p.m. Beers start at US$4, cocktails at US$5.
Thao Trang, Singer
Singer Thao Trang rose to fame as a top-five finalist in the 2007 season of Vietnam Idol, an official franchise of the United Kingdom’s “Pop Idol”. Originally from the central city of Quang Tri, Trang was a student at the local conservatory when she auditioned in Ho Chi Minh. Trang sings the theme song to the new movie “De Mai Tinh” (Angel in Me) starring Dustin Nguyen (with a comical cameo by Johnny Tri Nguyen). “That song started everything for me” says Thao Trang. “The producer, who also composed the song, asked me to record a demo. He liked it so much that I ended up singing all the songs in the film. The star, who plays a singer in the film, lip-synchs six of my songs.”
Thao Trang’s second album “The New Me” will be out next month. Her first, “La” (2009) is available now on iTunes.
Thao's pick: 2 Lam Son, Park Hyatt
“The 2 Lam Son bar at Park Hyatt is a great place to hang out and just chill,” says Thao Trang. Crafted by the internationally renowned, Tokyo-based interior design firm “Super Potato”, 2 Lam Son is the embodiment of class and Indochinese sophistication. Rich earth tones envelop patrons with walnut timber floors, black marble and traditional Hmong textiles from Sapa. Intimate booth seating is available for small groups, or luxurious lounging for larger groups on the balcony above. Lam Son’s signature drinks -- lemon grass or ginger martinis, complete the ambiance as smooth jazz evolves into trendy dance beats till 2 a.m.
More info: Park Hyatt Saigon, 2 Lam Son Square, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Tel: +84 (0) 8 3824 1234. No cover charge. Smart dress recommended. Martinis start at US$7, wine by the glass at US$8, and beers at US$4.
Quach Thanh Danh, Singer
Singer Quach Thanh Danh, a Saigon native, got his big break in 2004 with the song “Toi La Toi” (I Am Me). The 32-year-old has remained a favorite with his deep baritone voice, and has produced numerous albums. He travels to the United States several times each year. “I just came back from America a few days ago,” says Danh “This year I performed in San Jose, San Diego, Atlanta, Virginia, Seattle, Houston, and Dallas.” Danh’s latest pop album is titled “The Gioi To That To” (The Big World). His previous album “Nhu Da Dau Yeu” (Falling in Love) is available now on iTunes.
Quach's pick: Gossip
Quach Thanh Danh’s verdict: “I like Gossip. They have a great new design, good music and service -- it’s the best place to go with a big group of friends.” Gossip, located near the backpacker district, is the city’s largest and most popular dance club. Always packing a big crowd, Gossip is a DJ-centric club playing lots of Trance & Electronica.
More info: Gossip Club, 79 Tran Hung Dao Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Tel: +84 (0) 8 3824 2602. No cover charge. Smart dress recommended. Beers starting at US$4. Shots at US$5.