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Vietnam's lackluster nightlife symbolizes official inertia

In October 2007, the debut issue of the now-defunct English-language Thanh Nien Daily newspaper, where I started my journalism career, ran a front-page story contending that international tourism interest in Vietnam was being dampened by the country's lackluster nightlife.

The article, which questioned whether Vietnam should continue to force tourists to go to bed early, sparked hopes for dynamic change. A decade and a half later, little has changed, with media reports still logging foreign tourists' disappointment with the early closing times of most entertainment spots in major cities -- typically 10 p.m.