It’s a Friday night and the whole world seems to have congregated on a remote mountainside in the northern end of Danang. The reason? The opening of InterCon’s M Club, a nightclub designed by the renowned American interior designer, Bill Bensley. It’s being touted as the most exclusive and certainly the most visually engaging in Vietnam.
From Saigon there’s a crowd of celebrities, foodies and well-known partygoers, while Hanoi, Hong Kong and further afield are represented. The Danang posse are also in attendance — Nick from Waterfront and Red Bridge in Hoi An, Phil from GoPro and many more.
Yet after the overwhelming, sometimes bizarre monkey motifs are discussed — here they appear at every turn — at different points of the evening, the question arises. Where are the people going to come from? How are they going to fill the club’s many rooms? M Club is 25km from downtown Danang. Prices are top-end, and getting to the place requires a pre-planned, well thought-out journey.
One answer is Hong Kong. They’ll be staying in the InterCon and they’ll come from Hong Kong. Then someone else chimes in. Thanks to the recent events in Binh Duong, tourism has taken a hit. “The Chinese aren’t coming any more. The Crowne Plaza in Danang was running at 100 percent occupancy. Now it’s down to six.”
Monkey Be, Monkey Do
Event and marketing manager of M Club, Dan Kings, acknowledges the difficulties they face. “No business can be guaranteed success,” he says. “Obviously there are many challenges, but aren’t there always?
“Your venue is too small, or too big, it’s too cheap or too expensive, the music is too loud or too quiet. You can’t please everyone all the time. However, from our perspective, we are willing to take a chance and do our best to make it work. There is a real lack of venues in Vietnam that cater for a more exclusive crowd, especially in Danang.”
And the more exclusive crowds they’re seeking want something they can’t get anywhere else. “We will need to offer something a bit different to the normal clubs,” Kings continues. “We will combine stage performances with more environmental type acts. Whether it is dancers, costume walkabouts, close-up magicians or something else, the entertainment will always be quirky and new, evolving with various themes and styles.”
That Kings recognises the challenges already bodes well — there is none of the build-it-and-they-will-come attitude so peculiar to businesses in Vietnam. And the venue is truly spectacular — we’re not just talking about the mountainside location on Son Tra Peninsula, otherwise known as Monkey Mountain thanks to the large population of macaques and douc langurs living on its many peaks. Kitsch yet tasteful, contemporary yet with a constant tribute to the past, this is a place to make your eyes goggle.
Interior designer Bill Bensley gives his own take on the club:
Mai is a monkey and has a fine art collection of all of his friends in the local Danang forests. But they, like him, all wear fancy clothes. Mai is a bit of a fashionista.
He has hung his own portrait in the most important places and he has lots of girlfriends that love him as Mai is very handsome, a bit cheeky, and a real swinger. Mai went to school in Danang and excelled in interior design — that is why his pad looks so cool.
Mai, like all intelligent primates, loves bananas, and he keeps them everywhere for his guests to enjoy — usually fresh, and hanging from a rope from the ceiling. He has also managed to collect Southeast Asia’s largest collection of banana art and sculpture...
And so M Club was born.
The Long Goodbye
As the audience thins out, a group of us head back into the resort to Room 102. Just off the beach and with its own private pool, the partying continues into the early hours of the tropical night.
I flew up to Danang for the opening. It was a long journey just for the pleasure of going to the club, but between the entertainment, the environment and the company, the experience made this onehelluva the trip.
Maybe, just maybe, it could all work. — Nick Ross