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:

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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-Fiend column.