Guitar Street in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

After reading a great set for forum posts on harmony central (link is broken) about a guitar factory in Vietnam – I decided to try to find the guitar street - a 500 meter stretch of Nguyen Thien Thuat street (between Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Nguyen Dinh Chieu) with over 20 guitar shops.  The one that I’ve read about online the most is Duy Ngoc (named after the owner), but the harmony central article mentioned another builder, Binh – who works out of Tam Hiep @ 36 Nguyen Thien Thuat.

Binh is an awesome guy and has a large number of low end guitars and some really impressive handmade instruments.

Here’s some mandos and other instruments up on the walls (including the arch top cut away on the left).

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And more of the budget guitars on the side wall.

I played one of the guitars that the owner said was the best. (it was in the glass case)  A dreadnought copy.

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One of the loudest acoustics I’ve ever played.  Just projected really well.  Very even tone.  All hand made with excellent fretwork and construction.

Here’s the back of the guitar (I had to take my shoes off to enter the store hence the socks!)

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And here’s the headstock (note the inlay):

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The tuners were okay but could have been better.  Otherwise, everything was a professional level build and execution.   He wanted 8,000,000 vn – About $420.

He then said – you should see this one as well.  Same build but with a glossy finish:

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This one sounded even better.  A little more pronounced bass.   I only hesitated trying it because I’m not a huge fan of finished necks but I hated to put it down.This one was the same price – about $420 us with case.  Reminder – this is a hand made guitar!  Not a cnc router in sight!!!

This guitar was no joke – I’m talking about something that was easily a $1200-$1500 guitar in the US for a factory made instrument if not more.

That’s why it made it home with me.  I talked him down to about $410 US with a hardshell.  

(You can see a brief video with a low fi camera of the guitar here.)

Here’s an archtop mando I was able to try.  Check out the fingerbaord inlay:

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The 6 string version had a similar font inlay.  I thought I got a fretboard photo – but missed it.  Here’s the back inlay:

(Side note – I had to take my shoes off to enter – hence the socks!)

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And the tailpiece as well:

Again this thing was LOUD – and projected really well.  Very even tone.  Just a knockout.  The work around the inlay was a little more noticible but for a $400 guitar there was really nothing to complain about.

The harmony central article linked above mentioned that for about $600 they could make a custom guitar.  If I had baritone dimensions – I would probably be all over that.

Here I’m holding a Vietnamese style guitar.

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Bizarre tuning and the body construction was lower quality so the tone was very tinny. Note the scalloped fingerboard. There’s a better photo below of just how deep the scallop is.

(It’s also interesting to note that all of the repair and set up work is being done on the floor like the use of a stool of a headstock rest.)

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This was about $150 US.  This was tempting but when put into standard tuning – the top 2 strings crapped out on big bends.  The low E-G strings were very cool though!! Also it was kind of a drag about the body  because I would have really liked to have heard the dreadnought copy with that scalloping!  A number of the other shops has a similar style body – So I don’t know if he made this one or just set it up.

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This next one was special.  That was at a 2nd hand shop about 4 doors down on the other side of the street.  A piece of sheet metal with wood bracing on the sides. The wood on the lower bout was cracked in the middle.   The back of the neck had kind of a Stevens cutaway if you remember those.  It looks like there was a magnetic pickup towards the bridge that was filled in with wood.  and maybe one by the neck.  There was a plastic bag tying it to the guitar stand – and I don’t know Vietnamese so unfortunatelyI was only able to guess that the woman filling in at the store didn’t know if it was for sale or not.  I’m not even sure it was functional but that didn’t stop me from lusting after it.

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A couple of doors town they had a guitar that was called a “teisco”  with that scalloping seen above and a built in ring mod/octave switch.  They wanted 1,9000,000 vn (about $100).  That one didn’t end up coming back with me as there was no gig bag and probably too fragile to get home.  I couldn’t get them to come down on price – so they showed me a “fender” with the same scalloping, a trem and built in flange/auto wah switch for 900,000 vn.

Binh’s contact info is on the sign – but his e-mail address is in the almost 20 page harmony central post that started it all off for me. (binhguitar@yahoo.com)

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Thanks for dropping by!

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PS – If you like this post you may also like the guitars of Vietnam post I wrote for the mighty Joe Gore’s Tone-Field column on Seymour Duncan.

42 thoughts on “Guitar Street in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

      • I visited Ho Chi Minh a week ago for vacation and I passed by Nguyen Thien Street. I went straight to Duy Ngoc guitar shop where I bought a classic guitar for 5,500,000 which is around USD 260. I brought the guitar back to Hanoi where i work and will bring to Philippines when I go home in October. Am happy with it and it sounds great. There is not much guitar is Hanoi as in Ho Chi Minh and I was told that Hanoi Guitars come from Ho Chi Minh and Taiwan which means getting straight from HCMC is a great deal for me.

  1. Hey there! Great posting really helpful. I was just wondering did they have a good selection of acoustic electrics? My friend is there and is willing to pick me up one.

    • Glad you liked it!! They had some electrics – but I don’t remember acoustic electrics. I only played the acoustics. There was a shop down the block that had a bunch of acoustic electrics. You could buy a Tam Hiep and get a K&K pickup installed and it would be a fraction of the cost of a comparable guitar in the states.

      I hope this helps!

    • Most of the shops there can put electronics into any acoustic guitar you may want in about 1 hour. No top quality stuff like “Fishman” but they can do it.

  2. Wonderful article! How did you get the guitar home? And shipping cost?
    I will put this street in mind when visit VN. Did you recall if parlor sized guitars were represented well among the shops?

    • Hello! Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you liked the article.

      I took the guitar on the plane (and it survived!). The lack of a hard case made it impossible for me to take one of the electrics I was considering……

      Som parlor guitars. Mostly, Dreds and Archtops (with some other things mixed in).

      Tam Hiep is the place though. Those guys are really great!

      Good luck!

      -SC

  3. I visited, met and spoke to Than Minh through his young English speaking son at his factory, a 40 minute ride by motorcycle from Le Thanh Toh St, Dist. 1, HCMC, in rainy conditions, but I am most pleased that I went. Yes, I am most impressed with his guitars and the quality woods he showed me, Indian rosewood, Brazilian Rrosewood, spruce, maple, etc. are imported and his major supplier is Tonewoods, USA and Canada.

    I will tell more about him later.

    Best regards.

  4. I visited Tam Hiep based on the reviews on this site and was dissappointed. I played two of their “top end” acoustics (a spruce top Taylor copy & a cedar top taylor copy) and they both sounded pretty flat. Projection was poor compared to another shop I visited a few doors away. The real let down was the USD500 price tag.

    Personally I favoured the guitars by Thanh Musical Instruments @ 61 Nguyen Thien Thuat. Will be back there to pick up a cedar top Martin d45 style type acoustic which they agreed to sell me for USD290 with a hardcase. Incidently I picked up a mint condition vintage made in japan Guyatone 30watt tube guitar amp from Thanh Musical for a song @ USD190. It’s a really warm sounding amp similar to a Marshall JCM.

    They also have a couple of old Yamaha AR series (Celestron loaded) acoustic amps which I plan to pick-up on my next visit.

    Build wise their guitars may not look as comestically appealing like those from Tam Hiep but even their cheaper (around 3 million VND) handbuilt acoustics were more well rounded in the tone dept with decent projection.

    Anyone whose planning to visit Guitar Street should stop by Thanh Musical. Will be providing more updates when I visit more shops there.

  5. I recently accepted a job that has me living in Ho Chi Minh City for one year. I came across your article and was thrilled to go visit the Guitar Street. I ended up purchasing an acoustic-electric bass from Guitar Binh for $250 US including hard case. It is an excellent sounding guitar. Very well made. The only flaw I can see is on the back where the neck meets the body, the joints in the wood are visible. And the interior of the body is “dirty”. The service and attention I have received from Mr. Binh was excellent and I am already planning on having him build me another guitar.

  6. At his store/factory, which actually is converted from a bungalow, Than Minh carefully stacks his stocks of imported woods according to their class and ‘air’ them naturally. All the imported ‘AA’ rated and the ‘AAA’ rated (the highest rated woods available at his store) woods for guitar tops, back and sides are separated from the rest and he also has a small collection of Brazilian rosewood for use on back and sides of specially ordered custom guitars. He stocks a wide variety of woods such as maple, mahogany, koa, cedar, spruce, etc. If you want to order a custom made guitar from him, he has many designs to offer from such as parlours, OMs, jumbos, dreadnoughts, classical, etc. with or without cutaways and you may request for pick-ups or piezos to be fitted on your guitar. Hardcase comes with all the guitars he builds. His guitars are by large, handmade.

    My next visit there will be in September.

    Best regards.

    • i am interested in than minh, is he the same guy as mentioned in the post? Anyone can give me the contacts and address of this store/factory?

      • Dear Aaron, If you go to Ho Chi Minh City, you can find the shop/showroom I was talking about here: Nguyen Thien Thuat street (between Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Nguyen Dinh Chieu) with over 20 guitar shops. Binh – works out of Tam Hiep @ 36 Nguyen Thien Thuat.

        I visited, met and spoke to Than Minh through his young English speaking son at his factory, a 40 minute ride by motorcycle from Le Thanh Toh St, Dist. 1, HCMC, in rainy conditions, but I am most pleased that I went. Yes, I am most impressed with his guitars and the quality woods he showed me, Indian rosewood, Brazilian Rrosewood, spruce, maple, etc. are imported and his major supplier is Tonewoods, USA and Canada.

        At his store/factory, which actually is converted from a bungalow, Than Minh carefully stacks his stocks of imported woods according to their class and ‘air’ them naturally. All the imported ‘AA’ rated and the ‘AAA’ rated (the highest rated woods available at his store) woods for guitar tops, back and sides are separated from the rest and he also has a small collection of Brazilian rosewood for use on back and sides of specially ordered custom guitars. He stocks a wide variety of woods such as maple, mahogany, koa, cedar, spruce, etc. If you want to order a custom made guitar from him, he has many designs to offer from such as parlours, OMs, jumbos, dreadnoughts, classical, etc. with or without cutaways and you may request for pick-ups or piezos to be fitted on your guitar. Hardcase comes with all the guitars he builds. His guitars are by large, handmade.

        You can go to his workshop/factory to meet with Than Minh by taking a 40 minute ride by motorcycle from Le Thanh Toh St, Dist. 1, HCMC, just like I did and talk through his young English speaking son at the factory. The jouirney is safe and the people there are all very friendly, don’t worry.

        Sorry, I have misplaced their contact number but if call this number: Ho Chi Minh City DT 8394942, you can get it from his lovely English speaking daughter who will normally take the call and who takes care of the shop/showroom.

        Good luck!

  7. Just bought a dreadnought in maple with sitka spruce top from Mr. Binh today. Ordered it yesterday, picked up today. Could have walked out with it yesterday, but I wanted the optional Fishman Blender pickup/preamp and a strap clip installed. US$440 out the door, with hardshell case. Now I own two Taylors, one very rare 30th Anniversary Edition 514-CE-L30 (retail US$3450), and one 414-CE (retail US$1850), both 2004 models. And I love my Taylors. But I’m playing Binh’s guitar right now, and I gotta tell ya, this thing is more responsive, has a better feel, lighter action, louder sound than the Taylors. I’m very pleased with it. Was thinking about leaving it here for my brother-in-law, but now I’m seriously considering taking it home with me when I go back to the states in 3 months. Check out his inventory and prices: http://www.binhguitar.com

    • Just to clarify for anyone reading here – This is NOT the same shop that I went to (and recommended).

      The shop I bought my guitar at was – Tam Hiep @ 36 Nguyen Thien Thuat. You can contact Binh at binhguitar@yahoo.com.

      And YES – I like my Tam Hiep better than any Taylor I’ve played.

      -Scott

      • Any pics of your new dreadnought? Maybe next time you should try Dan Thanh at shop no61. I have bought 6 pcs there to date. The master maker Mr Thanh has been making guitars since her was 11yrs old. He is 57 now. And I agree with you most quality Vietnamese made guitars play and sound better than a Taylor.

        BTW Scott are you based in HCM?

      • No – I’m not based in HCMC – I was there 2 summers ago. My guitar has held up really well and sounds good. If I get back I’ll check the other places again as well – but I had a really good experience at Tam Hiep.

    • Sorry about the confusion. Yes, it appears I went to a different builder than you did. I researched him on the web before going to HCMC. Here are some pics of the one I bought from Guitar Binh (binhguitar.com): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150387394417958.375087.581342957&type=1&l=e0ac085287

      He does excellent work, and has great service. He also will happily haggle with you on the price if you want a discount. Good guy all around.

      • Went back to Binh today to buy strings, and it turns out the place you went to, the pics above, are only two doors down from him. The guy who runs Guitar Binh is probably the younger Binh, and the guy who runs your shop is probably the older Binh. Maybe a father/son operation going on there.

  8. i recently came back from a Vietnam and bought one of the budget guitars showed in one of the pics above. i got it around $140 AUS (discounted because I know the owners ;) ) and its one my favourite guitars. The sound and finish on the guitar is wonderful and i highly recommend going here for guitars

  9. Hi,I have just ordered 2 guitars ,a six and a twelve steel dreadnaughts as a matched pair from a luthier by the name of Nguyen Van Minh.I was just blown away by the cost of these guitars inlayed to a design called crystal dragon.After reading this article I am even more impatient than before to see these in my music room.

  10. Dear Mike, I am most delighted to hear about your new discovery and purchases. Maybe, the next time you are in Ho Chi Minh City, do pay a visit to the man’s workshop/factory like I did. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, and I am most certain about that.

  11. Im in hcmn today, planning to pic up à Guitar tomorrow, is anyone of you concerned about the fact that humidity affect the Guitar Wien taken to à dryer country? I live in Sweden.

    Cheers
    Henrik

  12. Thanks for that excellent post! I just got home with my new guitar from Guitar Binh. I am living in Hanoi for a year on business but decided not to bring my Taylor 710ce with me. I come to Saigon once a week so I figured I would have better luck here finding a quality guitar. I just spent $360 US on an amazing sounding dreadnought custom made with beautiful inlays. I will not be missing my $2000 Taylor much either cause this thing sounds great and has really nice action on the feet board. With a quality hard shell case and stand I paid 8,300,000vnd about $415US. I knew when I walked in his shop I was in the right place as he was surrounded by unfinished instruments in various stages of completion. He actually had to put down the one he was building to open the display case for me, super cool. I spent a couple of hours playing guitars up and down guitar street and ended up back at Binh’s. There were definitely a few other shops with some really nice stuff, but I just got really good energy from Binh, and his guitar really did it for me. Very loud with great projection even in the noisy shop. I the recommend going in the bathroom to try out guitars as you can’t hear much detail with horns and taxis buzzing by. It’s worth the smell, trust me. He is going to install Fishman electronics for 150,000VND, probably next week when I come back. I would guess a guitar like this back home in the US would cost well over $1000, maybe much more for a custom one of a kind like this. There is a beautiful signature inlay on the headstock that just totally rocks. Anyway I am very excited about finding this gem. Good luck shopping. Thanks for all the great comments on this page also, really helped me while I was looking. Happy picking:)

    • Hi I’m interested in Minh’s guitars actually. Anyone has his email or contact? I bought one guitar from him previously which is a full body Koa and it was amazing. Unfortunately I didn’t get his email and somehow or rather ive only been emailing binh. Please let me know if I can contact Minh instead. The one endorsed by this article with the picture of the shop front. Thanks!

    • Hi Tyler,

      Yes…you can get brand name guitars – but you won’t find any deals on them. I guess as an analogy, I had a decent Indian meal in Saigon – but there are much easier places to get Indian food than traveling there!

      The one bummer is I really wanted a Highland Coffee hat – but couldn’t get one. Will definitely go back someday.

      • Hmm maybe I got confused between the Minh and binh brothers. So am I right to say the binh email is the one for the number 36 tam hiep store?

    • Branded meaning Fender, Gibson, Taylor? Lots of Martin wannabes. tam hiep featured in this blog has a couple of Taylor look alikes but acoustically sounds nothing like a Taylor. Long way to go before he reaches that level of proficiency. A lot of hits & misses when shopping for an acoustic at guitar street. Be sure to try out many pieces before making a purchase. Knowing what tone woods appeal to you also helps. Ask for their private stock which is not on display. That’s the only stuff worth buying.

      I’ve bought 6 pieces from guitar street already. Nothing in the showcase is worth buying. Note I didn’t buy from tam hiep or duy ngoc. There are better makers there but less popular because there’s no mention on this blog.

      On another note. If you know your woods, you can pick up vintage yamahas, Suzuki & other popular Japanese made brands in some of the shops. Most are laminates but if you know how to differentiate a solid from a laminate you’ll find lots of hidden treasures.

      Happy hunting

      The two popular shops mentioned here are father & son run. Their uncle also runs another shop further down the street.

  13. Reading this page was so helpful, Scott. I live here in HCMC and I play music, but tuba is my main axe. I even have a small (-ish) horn with me, but I have located no other horn players. My music here is entirely solo until I get back to America or somehow connect with others.

    A few days ago I was looking ahead in my Vietnamese textbook when it hit me. Guitar! Why not? Guitar to accompany myself while singing seemed like an obvious lubricant to my faltering language skills. Vietnamese love their folk music. My guitar chops are primitive: just strumming and a bit of finger-picking I remember from college days of yore. I wasn’t looking for anything too high-end but I wasn’t going to buy a piece of crap either.

    We drove to Thank Hoa Don, 61 Nguyen Thien Thuat, got off the bike and I said, in English, “I came here to buy a guitar”. He smiled and showed me to the usual plastic chair American children use in kindergarten. No problem for something just above squatting. They started handing me various models. They all sounded good but one was better than the rest. I got a classic model with gut strings for 2.32 M Dong. ($110 USD) It came with a soft case and a few picks, and I added a strap and a package of strings to bring it up to that. The guitar alone was 2.2M. I plan to leave this here when I repatriate but until then I’m sure my friends and I will enjoy passing it around at parties and playing to entertain each other. It may even help me with my Vietnamese.

    Thanks for the page, and buy the way, virtually everyone is barefooted indoors. It is the Asia thing. Seeing shoes on your feet would have seemed impolite.

  14. Anyone who wants to buy guitars there has to pay in cash. One of the guitars I bought was taken by my friend back in Sarawak, so i have to go back to HCM city to get me a guitar

  15. Move over Guitar Street there’s a new player in town. Don’t need to make your way the Guitar Street (Nguyen Thien Thuat Street) when in HCM. There’s a new Guitar Custom Shop located at Pham Ngu Lao Strret in District 1.
    The shop name is HL Custom Guitars. The shop sells it’s own brand of Acoustic Guitars and have a good range of guitar accessories. They also trade used electrics and there’s also a real Custom Shop inhouse run by an American Trained GuitarTech.
    Prices are quite similar to what you can find on Guitar Street but quality is a whole lot better. They don’t sell cheap guitars. The shop also has popular brand good quality acoustics for comparisons as testimony of their build.

  16. I have 2 of Mr. Thanh’s traditional zithers called dan tranh. One is 17 strings, the other is 22 strings. These are great quality. I can not find his e-mail address or phone number. I have tried the address and phone numbers on his webpage and get nothing. This has been several times over several months.. Can any one help me? I need to contact him. Thanks , Keith

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