Vietnamese-style pubs tend to be karaoke lounges - you know youve assimilated when you start enjoying these places. However, the increasing number of tourists and expats (especially in Hanoi and HCMC) has caused a boom in Western-style pubs. Many of these are husband-and-wife joint ventures (typically a Western husband and Vietnamese wife). In spite of the Tiger beer, many of these places seem almost indistinguishable from their counterparts over in London, Berlin, New York or Melbourne. Features such as Darts, Mexican food, rock music, oak furniture and CNN can make you forget where you are.
Following reunification, ballrooms and discos were denounced as imperialist dens of iniquity and shut down by the authorities. Since 1990 they have reopened, though some forms of dancing (such as Brazil's erotic dance, the lambada) technically remain banned. Hanoi and HCMC are the hot beds for nightclubs - the 'in' place to go seems to change by the week.
Most Westerners find karaoke about as appealing as roasted gecko with shrimp paste. Nonetheless, karaoke has taken over Asia and youll have a hard time avoiding it.
For those unfamiliar with karaoke, it's simply a system where you are supposed to sing along with a video. The words to the song are flashed on the bottom of the screen (a number of languages are possible) and participants are supplied with a microphone. Really fancy karaoke bars have superb audio systems and big-screen video, but no matter how good the equipment, it's not going to sound any better than the ability of the singer. And with a few exceptions, it sounds truly awful. The Vietnamese only enjoy karaoke if it's played at over 150 decibels.
Movie theatres are common in nearly all major towns and cities. Many urban maps have cinemas (rap).
Films from the former Soviet Union have been replaced with Western movies that are either subtitled or dubbed. The dubbed ones are a kick, as most voice-overs are handled by just one person (who by nature can only be either male or female). Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking in Vietnamese is hard enough to swallow, but try to imagine what it's like when he has a dainty woman's voice!
Regional imports are popular, but Vietnam now produces its own kung fu movies rather than importing them from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Love stories are also popular.