Photos by Aaron Joel Santos
My great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents, I, and even my kids, were born in Hang Bac. My memories of Hanoi are of Hang Bac.
Being from the Old Quarter is quite fun. Back in the day, every street would only sell one kind of thing. My street was selling gold. My grandmother was a trader, so I grew up with gold around me. I remember the smell when they burnt the gold. I really loved it when I watched guys making rings, making the metal really hot. When the gold glowed red, they’d dip it in the water and the sound when they pulled it out — I love that sound. Now I’m a DJ and if I could, I’d record all those sounds.
Hang Bac was one of the first streets in Hanoi selling CDs. Back then, the CD shops in Hang Bom and Hang Bac were the biggest ones. I used to sell lyrics. I’d download all the posters and music. I’d even stay up all night just to download one video. So I grew up with internet, and then a friend introduced me to English music. Since then I’ve gotten into live music more and more.
I want to create a fine experience here. I want people to come to Vietnam not just because of Halong Bay or some war museum.
In Hanoi, if you go out, you’ve only got two choices: coffee or clubs. My friends from England came here and said, “There’s nothing to do after 9pm!” So I thought, “Let me do something.” I want to create a fine experience here. I want people to come to Vietnam not just because of Halong Bay or some war museum. I want people to come here also because, ‘There’s a nice speakeasy bar in Hanoi, and we should check it out’, you know?
l spent time abroad, and I loved it. I thought my friends here should experience that too. I wanted to give them more choice. And I wanted to do something for Hanoi. It’s lame to say that, to be honest, but I really wanted it.
I’m a Vietnamese guy, so I thought I’d do something in my style and in my country’s style. I thought I’d recreate something from the Indochina era. So that was the idea: When you walk through the door, you go through the tunnel into another world.
I think Hanoi has a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs to do something you like. It’s emerging country and everything is still cheap. You don’t have to go to the west and spend a few million dollars to do the same thing. Here there’s more chance.
Of course. I want my kids to stay here and be Hanoian before they go anywhere else. All three of my kids are studying in international schools, so they speak English well, but I still want them to have Hanoi inside them.