HCMC Dining Guide

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Another weekend, another major entertainment event shut down by police. Held Saturday night at Diamond Island, an ultra high-end condo complex in the undeveloped marshlands of Thu Thiem, Dose's Summer Escape Party was billed as Vietnam's first-ever electronic dance music festival. I don't normally have that much interest in EDM, but with the right friends and the right products it can be fun. Plus I always like checking out new things here.

According to our $10 tickets, a free speedboat ride from the District 1 riverside to District 2 was included, so I headed down to the wharf around 7 with a couple of buddies. Lots of people were milling around, and only after asking a staff member did we learn that the speedboat had stopped running at 4pm. The festival began at 2 and was supposed to last all night. As per usual there was no sign telling people not to waste their time.

We hopped into a taxi and eventually arrived at Diamond Island, which is right on the river and is surrounded by absolutely nothing. At least there wouldn't be any neighbors to complain (at least that's what we thought). There was a big crowd, and it was obvious that a lot of work had gone into putting this event together. Two stages, one on a grassy field and the other on the side of the complex's pool, were set to host 30 DJs over the night. In one area we could hear souped-up cars doing donuts, but that looked like an accident waiting to happen so we steered clear. A healthy mix of expats and young locals danced and caroused. As soon as we checked out the pool stage I regretted not bringing my swimsuit, but oh well.

More friends began arriving and we carved out some dancing space near the stage in the field. This was one of the most professional productions I've seen in Vietnam, and the setting was awesome. The darkness of the river and the swamps sat in front of the glowing skyline in the distance, and everyone was having a great time. A sudden downpour left everyone soaked, but fortunately it cleared up quickly.

Then, as I wandered up to the pool stage later on, I heard somebody making an announcement about police. Word soon got around that the music was ending, as the cops had arrived. I don't even think it was midnight, and the scheduled end time had been 4am. Furious that yet another event was getting shut down, we didn't want to end our night yet so we headed back into the city and ended up at, of all places, Apocalypse Now, along with plenty of other festival-goers.

I guess at this point nothing the police here do should surprise me, but I was really hoping they would leave something out in the boonies alone. I don't even think anybody lives in Diamond Island yet, so no one was being bothered. It was a closed, controlled environment, so we weren't corrupting the precious youths of Saigon. I haven't heard any reasoning behind the shut down, but I'm sure it was the usual combination of corruption, communism and conservatism. The authorities here are really doing their best to kill any sort of music/festival scene before it gets a chance to take off.

Fortunately it was still a good night, as there are places in District 1 that must have the right connections that allow them to stay open till the crack of dawn. After getting home a little after 5 I headed up to the roof of my building to watch the sunrise, something I've been meaning to do since I moved in. Sadly the clouds conspired against me and I couldn't see the sun, so I just went to bed.

On a sidenote, props to the Dose team for putting together a great event. Hopefully they won't be discouraged in the future.


  1. A friend of mine asked one of the organizers and they said that police requested the usual... let's say "permit fee" but by principle, they always refuse to pay the police.
    Most likely the same thing happened at Bourbon Street, Dengue Fever, etc.

    1. I'm pretty informed on what happened with Dengue Fever and all of that, and that involved far more than just money. Pretty ugly stuff to say the least but from what I've heard things are close to being sorted.