Jun 03 2011
I’m a karaoke fan. I have been since I was younger and partook of the Western variety: pub, lots of people, get drunk, write your name down and hope no-one boos. Fortunately my boyfriend is also a fan and will rave about the time in Tallin on a stag do when he got the whole club cheering and dancing along to ‘All my life’. Yes, there is video evidence.
You might say then that Hanoi is like a magic fairyland to us: the flashing karaoke signs (our favourite is the huge guitar that towers over a karaoke joint to the West of town) enticing us in to a world of wonder and excitement away from the usual Hanoi sites. Or you might not, but at the very least, if you like karaoke, you won’t go hungry here.
Karaoke is an extremely popular Vietnamese pastime and, as with elsewhere in Asia, it’s of the private room variety. Except for when it’s of the ‘singing in the street on a portable karaoke machine’ variety. There are hundreds of places around but of course, not all of them have English-language songs — somewhat of a prerequisite unless you speak Vietnamese. Our favourites are Quan Tom on Bui Thi Xuan, south of Hoan Kiem, and X-Men, in Dong Da district. Both have a reasonable range of English songs and are fairly priced, with excessively large rooms available — with stages — if you have a large group.
It’s advisable to book, particularly on a weekend night, but if you go to Quan Tom without a booking and can’t get in, there are plenty of others on the same street — just ask to see the English song book first.
Drinks and snacks are always available and X-Men has a more substantial food menu. They’ll bring in more than what you order but you’ll only pay for what you eat and drink — a bill will be presented when you want to leave (or when they ask you politely to leave). Room rates vary but it’s usually around 150,000 VND per hour — more for a large room or late at night.
Just one final note: you may already feel like a star when you have that microphone in hand and are belting out your karaoke song, be it ‘I will Survive’, ‘Living on a Prayer’ or ‘Lemon Tree’, but here chances are you’ll have another audience too: look out for the staff whose heads you often see peeping in the window for a look at those crazy foreigners dancing / jumping / headbanging and so on. Yes, Vietnamese love their karaoke, but they don’t do it with such … panache!
Quan Tom Karaoke
89 Bui Thi Xuan, Hanoi
T: (04) 3944 7844
408 Đê La Thành, Hanoi
T: (04) 3512 2100
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