Vietnamese vinyl vendors that any music aficionado must visit

Records for sale, Record Shop. Pop music posters, advertising bands, on to the walls of a shop selling vinyl records.

You might think that the 12″ record is a thing of the past, but it’s having a major resurgence with more and more looking to get their hands on a physical copy of their favourite album of all time.

When I am not writing about the ever-blossoming travel industry, I spend my spare time trawling through YouTube channels and forums in search of the perfect soundtrack for any moment.

On a recent trip to Vietnam, I got the opportunity to combine the two and head out on the back of a motorbike (with a helmet of course) to some of the best-kept secrets in the ‘land of the ascending dragon’.

So if you’re headed to Vietnam, or have a client with an eclectic ear, here are my top recommendations on where to find some music that’s a little more off the beaten track:

Totem Vinyl – Ha Noi

Totem Vinyl is a hole-in-the-wall type store that seems almost out of place considering its collection of underground electronic music and location across the road from the city’s main Government building, but that’s just what I had my eye on!

According to co-owner Đức Anh (affectionately known as ‘Red’), Totem is best known for its supply of, “Funk ‘n’ Soul, Jazz, Jazz Fusion and some weird stuff!” The store has a welcoming vibe and a collection of around 1,000 records in stock as well as a range of t-shirts, stickers, slip mats and a selection of cleaning products (for any fellow vinyl nerds!)

‘Red’, the co-owner of Totem Vinyl in Ha Noi. 

Vina Groove – Saigon/Ho Chi Minh

Travelling to Vina Groove was an experience in itself. A fellow music loving friend of mine and I took a ‘Grab’ (the equivalent of an Uber) roughly a 35 minute drive from where we were staying in the Saigon CBD. When the driver veered down one side lane (and then another) and dropped us off on a dark street we thought we may have entered the wrong address.

After a few minutes wandering through back streets, we began to hear music and found Francois, the French owner of Vina Groove who’s been living in Vietnam for some time. Vina is a bigger store with a beer garden out the front as well as a stocked fridge for anyone wishing to quench their thirst, which we did.

Vina Groove – Saigon.

The selection at Vina Groove comprises of over 2,000 records of which Francois has sourced from contacts across the world. Selections of  ’90s rock to reggae and almost anything in between are on offer as well as a range of bespoke photo-books.

After piling up about 40 records I thought my friend and I might be some of the stores bigger spenders. To my surprise Francois laughed and said, “Nope, we always get people from all over the world coming and spending hours here, it’s really cool to see!”

My favourite find in the store, an original copy of Giorgio Moroder’s 1977 ‘From Here To Eternity’. If you’ve never heard of him, Moroder has God-like status in disco history working with the likes of Donna Summer and is one of Daft Punk’s key influences!

Damn Shop – Saigon/Ho Chi Minh

Damn Shop is actually more of a skateboard shop located closer to the centre of the Saigon CBD with a bustling atmosphere of staff, local skaters and Hip-Hop DJ’s filling out the neatly kept store.

This is the kind of place where you can perouse through some of Vietnam’s finest streetwear and listen to some extremely talented DJ’s scratch between 90’s rap and 7″ Hip-Hop records. Although the music collection wasn’t as big as Totem or Vina, Damn has its own thing going on and you can tell you’re in good company as soon as you walk in the door!

If you’re looking for a cool t-shirt or a cap to take home as a gift for someone, this is certainly the place for you!

Nightlife hotspots

Saigon/Ho Chi Minh is known around the world for it’s incredible rooftop bars and we found just that when we took the lift to the tenth floor and found the Observatory Bar. On Thursday’s and Sunday’s you can find local DJ’s spinning perfect cocktail sipping music from a glamourous booth. Come Friday and Saturday the Observatory functions as a full throttle nightclub with top international DJs playing until 6 AM!

The Observatory, Saigon. Image: Brent Burns/35mm.36exp

If you’re looking for a cool night out in Ha Noi, Savage is the place for you! It’s everything I look for in a nightclub, dark and full of smoke (from a machine… You can’t smoke inside the dancefloor). Savage is regarded around the world as an iconic underground club and when you enter it’s no surprise as to why. It houses quality local acts and fly’s in others fresh from the big European festivals to play on a world class sound system!

Featured image: Vinyl shop. (iStock – urbancow)

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