*Our Indie Asia series is all about shining a light on the best independent businesses we’ve encountered during our travels in Southeast Asia. We will not be receiving remuneration of any kind in exchange for these blogs: these are the hotels, bars, and restaurants that have genuinely struck a chord with us and inspired us to share our discoveries. Sometimes it’s just nice to be nice.*
Despite its myriad historic treasures that make it a must-visit, Vietnam’s Hue can be kind of a weird, disjointed place, especially at night. It’s relatively quiet, as far as Southeast Asia’s ‘banana pancake’ backpacker trail goes – yet has loads of huge, mostly empty, hipster-style bars. Secret Lounge was an absolute tonic.
Why we loved it
Vibes, vibes, vibes. Secret Lounge – a bar and restaurant – is effortlessly cool, with mismatched furniture, a tropical-themed outdoor area, and an absolutely banging soundtrack (think Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Weezer, Louis Armstrong, Elvis). Inside there’s experimental artworks, while tangles of fairy lights illuminate the garden. A part of the ceiling also fell in a number of times due to heavy rain, adding to the ‘authentic vibe’. The owner – a Vietnamese Dude (and I mean Dude) with a man bun – sat at the Spotify playlist, queueing rock and jazz hits, and often challenged customers to games of one-armed pool. To clarify, he has two arms; he’s just so ridiculously good at pool that he only bothers playing with one.
Why we loved it: part 2
After sitting down we were immediately presented with free tea and salted peanuts, and given an option of free games to play – foosball, pool, uno, cards, jenga – in case we decided we didn’t want to talk to each other. They’d won me over already. Throughout the night, the bar staff also wandered around with free shots for patrons.
We also had plenty of deadlines to hit during our time in Hue, and this place had incredible Wi-Fi. The welcoming staff didn’t seem to mind us hanging out there with our Macbooks, and they kept us stocked up on free stuff while we were toiling away.
Why we loved it: part 3
It was while working on an article, a glass of wine and free peanuts in front of me, Hendrix blaring from the speakers, and a tiny puppy snoozing on my lap, that I realised I perhaps had never achieved this level of contentment before. What a fantastic combination of things.
I’m not sure how I’ve got so far into this glowing review without mentioning THE PUPPIES. Two tiny rambunctious labradors – one black, one blonde – barrelled around the bar, tiring themselves out to the point where they’d fall fast asleep in our laps.
I honestly think this may be my favourite bar I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.
The menu was a finessed combination of Vietnamese and Western food, presented beautifully. According to Phil, one of his best meals during our seven weeks in Vietnam. The wine – unusually for Vietnam – was fantastic, and they also shook up incredible chocolate milkshakes.
We stumbled upon this bar – down a random alley near Hue’s centre – by accident: our hotel was nearby. It’s a five-minute walk max from Hue’s network of backpacker bars.
Value for money
The food and beer weren’t any more expensive than in other parts of Hue, although I did rack up a serious wine bill without noticing. Once you’re in there you want to stay, meaning it’s all too easy to leave at 2am with a significant dent in your budget. But with all the free stuff and aforementioned vibes, it’s excellent value for money.
Is it for me?
Unless you’re a puppy-hating, good-music-hating, good-time-hating type of chap then yes it absolutely is.