Salsa in Hanoi, Vietnam!
First question: Is there even any salsa in Hanoi? The first thing I did was to check out SalsaPower.com which normally is a great resource for finding salsa clubs in cities around the world. The page only lists a few clubs. I had a couple of old contacts in Vietnam from my DVDs sales as well, so I email them, but get no response. I also emailed the Salsapower cityguide correspondant for Hanoi, but never heard back either. Then I do a general Google search, and find a little more information. There was supposed to be a salsa dance that night at a place called, "Woman Bar & Coffee." I decide it's best to walk over there during the day. After about 30 minutes on foot, I arrive. They greet me at the door, and want me to sit down and order something. They speak hardly a word of English. I try to explain that I am just here to find out if there is salsa dancing here. They look at me like I'm strange. The place is really small. There would not be much room at all to dance, but I've seen places this small before in my travels. They tell me there is no dancing tonight (contrary to what this website listed), and they say instead they have dancing the next night. "You come tomorrow night." "How many people?," I ask "About 15-20 people," they say. "But is it salsa?" With the language barrier, I couldn't even tell for sure if they had any idea what I was talking about. I was guessing they were thinking I wanted to do some hip shaking with some women or something like that. I leave, thinking it's not worth it to come back.
At this point, nobody has returned my emails. I can't seem to find an up to date listings of any salsa clubs in this city. Certainly in a city of over 7 million people they must have something of a salsa scene, even if it's in far away Vietnam.
I did find an outdated list of salsa clubs. At the bottom of the page, was a list of salsa and ballroom dance schools with links to their pages. So I start going to each schools' page, and find an email contact. I wrote five emails to the different schools, just asking they could please help me and tell me if they knew where there was any salsa dancing in the city. That's it. If I didn't hear back, I was going to give up. No salsa in Hanoi for El Cubanito.
A few hours later, I hear back from two people. They send me a list of clubs here with all the info. It lists somewhere to dance every night of the week except for Monday. "OK," I thought. Now I have something to check out. If not for those two people responding to my email, I would have never discovered what was sitting right under my nose ...
Fast forward now almost a week later. Here is the deal with salsa in Hanoi ...
I've danced the last 5 out of 6 nights here. Most all places are in amply spaced ballrooms, with good floors (somewhat on the slippery side though, but fine for me with only having a pair of sneakers with me.) High ceilings. Pretty nice venues overall. The music is the standard stuff you here these days. Lots of old-school mambo-type salsa. Not my thing, but quite the norm these days around the world. Lots of bachata dancing as well.
Funny thing is that almost all of the clubs go from exactly 8:30-10:30pm. Short, but sweet. In addition, all the clubs I've gone to here are either walking distance from my hotel, or a short taxi ride away. That, with Google Maps on my phone, has made it quite easy getting to all of the clubs.
OK, so how are the dancers? The men are quite decent dancers. Looks like they have some good instruction. People move well, and I see some cool moves. There are a few, not many, men who dance really well.
And the women? It's turning into heaven for me here. I haven't danced this much with so many excellent follows in a long time. I usually make it a policy of mine, to get contact information of any excellent follow I dance with. But last night, after finding even more, I've given up bothering. I've probably danced with nearly ten quite excellent followers at this point. And I don't easily put people into this category. There are many other women here as well that are generally good dancers. I gotten my "salsa fix" many times over. Very nice feeling, after not doing any serious dancing since back in the beginning of December a few couple of nights in Bangkok at the very beginning of my trip.
People are really friendly at the clubs. It's like walking into another world. I was finding very limited English here in Hanoi before. As soon as I walked into a salsa club, boom!, I felt as though I was transported to another world. All of sudden I'm speaking to lots of people with quite good English. Relationship of level of English between inside the salsa club, and outside on the street, restaurants, or even hotel receptionists? -- none. All of a sudden I'm talking to friendly, insteresting and open people. Instant friends. It's really changing my experience here in Hanoi. It's so funny, and I'm sure any other salsa person who's traveled a bit can relate -- salsa dancers in most places have a similar vibe. It's a familiar feeling walking into a salsa club in most any place around the world. (Actually I'd say this feeling applies mostly to when dancing in places where salsa isn't part of the native culture, like outside of Latin America mostly.)
The women even tend to have quite good styling, and, most of them, do so without screwing up their following. I'm impressed.
Here I am dancing the first night with one of the best ladies here in Hanoi.