05/09/2016 17:33:00

Calling time for Hanoi curfew

With state authorities preparing to relax regulations on opening hours for entertainment services after midnight, Hanoi’s reputation as a city tourism destination is set to improve.

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It the recent national conference on tourism development held in the second week of August, chairman of Hanoi People’s Commitee Nguyen Duc Chung proposed that the city would allow entertainment services to remain open after midnight. The proposal was welcomed by both locals and foreigners, especially those working in the service sector.

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“Why doesn’t Hanoi have any nightlife?” has been a question asked by tourists for years. Hanoi’s expat forums and tourism platforms like Tripadvisor, and Quora have regularly seen concerns aired about the lack of food available late in the evening or bars open through the night, with the city even being called a ‘ghost town’ after midnight. In the Travel Tips section of USAToday, there are suggestions of bars and pubs that stay open late, but readers are also warned that nightlife in Hanoi is limited. 

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Currently, tourists arriving in the city in the early hours of the morning on night trains struggle to find anywhere to serve them as they wait for the city to wake up and hotels to open. The new regulations will give them more options of safe places to wait and grab some sustenance. Other tourists arrive in Hanoi after a long flight and perhaps even a chain of delays. Arriving late, they may be keen to head out for a meal or drink, and it’s important that they feel welcome and see Hanoi as a super friendly destination from the outset.

The locals hold mixed opinions about the new regulations. Some see the change as positive, potentially boosting tourism and nightlife business, while others are concerned about potential noise and violence. But at the heart of Hanoi’s tourism, Hoan Kiem district, most of the restaurant, café and bar owners say they will be more than happy if they are able to open until 2am-3am.

Loi, owner of the Polite Pub, a place that has been serving tourists and regulars on Bao Khanh street for 21 years, says: “It is not necessary to terminate the curfew, rather we prefer an adjustment that allows bars, pubs and cafés to stay open until 2am. Not long ago, two tourists came to our pub at 11.30pm. They weren’t even able to finish their drinks when policemen entered to force us to close. I felt sorry for them as they just wanted to enjoy a quiet drink for a few hours. The uniform of the policemen made the atmosphere hostile and uncomfortable.”

“A lot of tourists travel to Hanoi for leisure, not work. They might not want to wake up early, or explore the busy city during office hours, but are likely to want to go out in the evening and stay up late,” says Loi, who also works as an air traffic control officer at Noi Bai Airport.

There has been an expectation for a while that Hanoi’s tourism authorities will abolish the midnight curfew, with many expatriates in Hanoi feeling strongly about it. People believe Hanoi will become more attractive if there is better nightlife like in Ho Chi Minh City, and it will have the potential to develop further into a successful city like Hong Kong or Singapore.

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In general, people seem to understand the potential to improve foreigners’ experience and Hanoi’s tourism by removing the curfew. The advantages of a nightlife for the city has at last been recognised by the local government. But doubts remain, particularly amongst the older generations, who are concerned by the idea that young people will be free to stay out all night and the social issues that they fear will arise.

At Hunter Café & Pub in Tho Nhuom street, a place that looks welcoming for tourists but whose main customers are Vietnamese, people are excited about the news. “I come here to hang out with close friends, and I like to meet clients and business partners here, too,” says Thanh Xuan, a 33 year-old employee of a commercial bank and a real estate investor. “Sometimes we come here after working late but have to stop earlier than we want because of the curfew - perhaps one more hour would allow an important issue to be solved.”

Ngoc Anh, owner of Hunter, shares his view: “I think young Vietnamese who come after midnight intending to stay until morning may cause problems. But it would be great if we were able to serve people until 2am. Because my regular customers come here for relaxation after work or family duties and won’t stay too long after 12pm.”

Hanoi People’s Committee have yet to release an official statement confirming the intention of the city’s chairman. Some sources say that Hanoi will first allow a limited number of serviced locations to open overnight, with lovers of the Old Quarter believing that the pedestrianised streets should be top of the list.

By Dao Boi Tu

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