District No. 9

Zone No. 9 in Hanoi

Zone No. 9 in Hanoi

Searching in Google for “District 9” will get you some information about a 2009 science fiction action/thriller film directed by Neill Blomkamp. If you search for “District 9 Vietnam” you will get information about Saigon's District 9 where you might catch a glimpse of daily Vietnamese life. It's a great place to soak up the atmosphere and browse through markets, cafes, tailors and houses that double as shops. It's less hectic and more affordable than HCMC's centre. Searching about “District 9 Vietnam Hanoi” you will not have much luck finding anything, but actually it might be the new creative hub for Hanoi.

The economy may have opened up, but Hanoi still jealously guards its role as a fortress of Vietnamese culture, the dowager queen of Vietnamese cities. Hanoi, crouched in the Red River Delta a few hours’ drive from the Chinese border, rules Vietnam culturally and politically.

One thing is certain: there is nowhere else like Hanoi. What I learned living in this city is that its artists worry just as much about the threat posed by capitalism to their citys ancient culture and landscape, as they do about government restrictions on their freedom of expression.

There have been many places all over the world in London and New York taken as an example where derelict and run down areas had been transformed into vibrant arts and entertainment districts. To find District 9 in Hanoi, you must first walk down south of the Opera House a street filled like many other neighborhoods with shops, sidewalk cafes and the ubiquitous roar of hundreds of motorbikes streaming in the direction of the century-old opera house.

This part of the city just south of the Opera house is an area where lots of different people have moved in; fashion designers, artists, Bar Betta, a vintage clothes shop, architects, photographers. It starts to grow and to support and develop creativity and learning especially in offering classes and workshops, organizing exhibitions and events, and generally sharing ideas, skills and work.

If it is about networking, collaboration and shared belief this Zone and district 9 can offer a similar opportunity.