It all began with three shipping containers, two entrepreneurs and a dream. Seven years later, Saigon Outcast is a thriving venue hub and the heart and soul of one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most happening districts.
A melting pot of cultural entertainment, events and all things bizarre, Saigon Outcast, an expansive events venue cobbled out of a couple of shipping containers, makes for an incredibly popular spot to dine, drink and mingle. Founded in 2012, entrepreneurial duo Nguyen Linh and Doan Phuong Ha set out to transform a sleepy district into “an up-and-coming place, where there are spaces that can fit up to 1000 people at a time, venues with graffiti art on the walls, and an underground space where the community can come and have concerts or festivals.” We sat down with Becca Whiting, Event Manager at Saigon Outcast, to chat through how the space has evolved since its conception – and the energy it’s brought to Vietnam’s communities.
Variety is truly the spice of life for Saigon Outcast, a venue that hosts everything from craft beer festivals and pop-up food stores to punk rock concerts and drag queen shows. “All these bring in people from all over the city,” says Becca of their determination to bring a unique offering of accessible, vibrant events open to all the community at affordable prices to the table. With a total of three venues – Saigon Outcast, Rogue Saigon, and Soma Art Lounge, not to mention their annual art, music and lifestyle festival Coracle Music Festival, there’s plenty to like about their spaces.
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Aside from the entertainment factor, event venues such as Saigon Outcast also provide a vital social opportunity for communities to feel increasingly integrated, contributing to their overall welfare. “At Saigon Outcast, it’s also all about giving back to the community. We have charity fundraisers like a yearly trip to a local orphanage, and always maintain eco-friendliness as a top priority, ensuring the products we use are as eco-friendly as possible and opening a lot of thrift markets where people can sell their clothes.” Since its launch in 2012, the venue has seen its neighbourhood of District 2 evolve from a sleepy corner of Saigon to one of the city’s most creative hubs – read our guide to what else it has to offer.
The exciting thing about working in such an environment is that there’s always room to explore new opportunities. “There’s never a dull moment. We coordinate events with whatever makes us excited, whether it’s a LEGO convention where we hold contests for building models like we did recently, or a burger festival with thousands of burgers sold. There’s so much to plan and so much fun to be had,” Becca enthuses. “Saigon has so many events at different venues nightly, so there’s a lot of stiff competition, and you need to constantly innovate and keep things fresh and vibrant.”
As Saigon Outcast has blossomed, so has its need to up the ante from its early days as a humble shipping container. “There’s a newly installed 16-tap system in the bar, a food menu being launched, with a chef from the US who makes the most insane dishes, and a brand new screen and sound system for the Soma Art Lounge, which will be useful for the increased number of bands coming to play over the next year or so,” says Becca. With all these developments at hand, how can one stand out in the events industry? “You need to have a unique concept you’re passionate about, that you’re driven to give that extra push to make successful – what has helped me the most is definitely making sure that I’m a fan of what I’m booking and I’m a fan of what I’m supporting all day long.”