Take a break from Singapore and Hong Kong: Jakarta, Manila and Hanoi currently offer three of the most vibrant arts and cultural scenes in Southeast Asia. 

Jakarta, Indonesia

Top festivals to look forward to this year

OK Video

When/Where: TBA

What: Biennial video art festival hosted by the Ruang Rupa collective established in 2003. Each year, the festival is based on a different theme and invites locals and international artists to share their thoughts through the format of video art.

Art Jog

When/Where: Jun 7-22, 

Taman Budaya Yogyakarta

What: Contemporary art fair with art talks and exhibitions from both young and established Indonesian artists.   

Java Jazz Festival

When/Where: Feb 28-Mar 2, Jakarta International Expo.

What: One of the world’s largest jazz events. This year, the three-day event will welcome big-names such as Jamie Cullum, India Arie, Natalie Cole, Earth Wind and Fire Experience and Sadao Watanabe. 


Top places to visit



Recommended by Anggung Suherman 


Komunitas Salihara

Jalan Salihara, No. 16, Pasar Minggu. (+62) 021-789-1202. www.facebook.com/salihara.org  

This community of art enthusiasts bundles together a theater, gallery and café. It’s home to Jakarta’s first black box stage, which has a capacity of 252 people and can be adapted for open-air use. The gallery space is structured in an oval shape aiming to give viewers a borderless experience, offering a range of local and international contemporary art.  

Ruang Rupa

Jalan Tebet Timur Dalam Raya, No.6, Jakarta Selatan. (+62) 021-830-4220. www.ruangrupa.org 

This non-profit organization was established in the early 2000s with an aim to help support the local art scene. Their many projects include Art Lab, which offers collaborative spaces for artists, RURU Gallery, an exhibition space for young artists, an annual writing workshop (Jarakpandang.net), student art event Jakarta 32°c and OK.

Galeri Nasional

Jalan Merdeka Timur No.14. 

Established in 1999, The National Gallery of Indonesia serves as one of the country’s preeminent cultural institutions, today exhibiting over 1,770 artworks by notable local and international artists.



Recommended by Martin Archer (founder of asia-bars.com)


56/F Menara BCA, Jalan M.H Thamrin No. 1. (+62) 021-2358-6996. www.ismayagroup.com/skye

One of the most popular rooftop venues in Jakarta, it offers a variety of cuisines including Japanese, Latin American and Middle Eastern with a laidback lounge and poolside seating that provides a sweeping panoramic view.  

Union Brasserie, Bakery & Bar

G/F, Plaza Senayan Courtyard, Jalan Asia Africa No.8. (+62) 021-5790-5861. 

This chic streetside all-day café and bar serves up European and Asian-style dishes amid an energetic bistro atmosphere. Come nighttime, the place is equally famous for its creative cocktails, which take their cues from the cuisine. 



G/F, City Plaza at Wisma Mulia, Jalan Jend. Gotot Subroto No. 42. (+62) 021-5297-1234. www.facebook.com/blowfishjakarta

Contemporary Japanese bar and restaurant that’s also a big player in the nightlife scene, welcoming big names DJ from all over the world like Breakbot, Major Lazer, Laidback Luke and our DJ Ono.         



Bars & Clubs 

Recommended by Bangkok’s DJ Maft Sai


Café Modo

Jalan Kemang Raya No. 72 i, Jakarta Selatan. (+62) 021-719-5701. www.facebook.com/CafeMondoJkt   

“Café Modo is this very cool basement club with a record store on the third floor,” says Maft Sai. Put simply, the three-story wooden shophouse is like an Indonesian version of WTF Bangkok and offers Asian fusion dishes, cocktails and retro pop tunes. Some of their regular events include Large Up! (reggae, dub and ska night every Wednesday), Hit Machine (monthly event featuring special guest DJs) and Orkes Dorong Mondo (monthly event under different themes, from old Indonesian tunes to Asian beat, garage and rare grooves).

The Jaya Pub

Jalan MH. Thamrin Kav. 1-2, Jakarta. (+62) 021-319-25633.  

“This place looks just like The Rock Pub in Ratchathewi but plays traditional Indonesian music called ‘dangdut’—pretty much the luk thoong of Indo,” says Maft Sai. Opened since 1975, The Jaya Pub is one of the longest standing bars and restaurants in Jakarta. Expect local-international dishes, long happy hours and daily live bands performing not just traditional tunes, but blues and international covers.




Back in March 2012, local independent music collective Delicate brought Indonesian electro duo Bottlesmoker to perform in Bangkok. Now we chat to Anggung Suherman, one half of the duo, who is also a volunteer at Common Room Networks Foundation and Managing Editor at the Indonesian creative/culture magazine Suave.  


What’s the best thing about living in Jakarta?

Party, party, party…and shopping. Jakarta has a great nightlife scene, especially for those after DJs every night of the week. Mainstream electro is everywhere, with lots of clubs to go dancing and get wasted. Art is also quite big in Jakarta, with many artists living here and putting on exhibitions. Because Jakarta is the capital, it hosts lots of international festivals, meaning local artists get to meet artists from other countries. For me, though, Jakarta is not really a great place for making art, but good for selling and exhibiting art. Music is where it’s at for Jakarta, with so much variety, from electro dance to punk. Some 90%-95% of Indonesia’s popular bands are from here, all the national media is here, so the media industry in Jakarta is really big. 

"Music is where it's at for Jakarta, with so much variety, from electro to punk."

How have things evolved over the past five years?

I think the internet has flooded us with information, so there are many references for people to make something new or different. Foreign artists coming to Indonesia have also given us fresh ideas.

What do you think will be the big trend this year? 

I think there will be more concerts from international artists this year, which might actually make things more difficult for local artists. Personally, I hope more local artists get the attention of public—there are a lot of great musicians here.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Top festivals to look forward to this year  

ASEAN Festival II

When/Where: May (TBC).

What: The festival started last year as a spin-off of the annual CAMA festival that has been running since 2005. Whereas CAMA is fully international in the sense that acts can come from anywhere in the world, this one aims to show and support music and youth culture from Southeast Asia. “Last year showcased acts from six of the 10 ASEAN countries and we'd like to do everything we can to make sure all countries are represented as soon as possible,” says Co-organizer Giles Cooper (See Q&A, this page). “Anyone know any good acts from Brunei?”  



Hanoi Sound Stuff

When/Where: Apr (TBC)

What: Founded by Vietnamese electronic artist and event organizer Doan Tri Minh back in 2008, the very first edition of Hanoi Sound Stuff aimed to be a space for local and international artists to exchange electronic music. The festival has expanded every year, with last year’s event also featuring visual works alongside experimental sounds, music classes and art talks in collaboration with the Goethe Institute.



Hanoi New Music Festival

When/Where: Dates TBC, DomDom Art Hub and Space

What: Premiered in November and December of last year, this festival also puts the emphasis on experimental music. Founded by composer Kim Ngoc, it aims be a platform for young musicians and also facilitate exchange with guests musicians from Sweden, Denmark, UK, Italy and more. Set in a gallery and outdoor space, the festival lineup spans solo and group physical performance, sound and visual performance and live experimental bands. 


Top places to visit in Hanoi



Art Spaces

Recommended by Douglas Pyper




This hub for experimental art and music in Hanoi was founded in 2012 and provides training programs on everything from journalism to music. On top of training facilities, the space is equipped with a stage and gallery, which made it the ideal host for last year’s Hanoi New Music Festival.     




14 Phan Huy Ich Street. Open daily: 9am-midnight. 

Set in a charming 20th century French villa, Manzi is a café by day and bar by night. With its very comfortable, easy-going atmosphere, it’s a great place to dine and drink. What’s more, another section of the house is dedicated totally to art: exhibitions, video installations, movie screenings and art talks.     


2/F Building A, 9 Tran Thanh Tong, (+84)-4-6680-9124. www.tadioto.com

Tadioto occupies the second floor of a formerly abandoned building, with only minor redecorations to freshen things up. There’s a space to enjoy coffee, tea and alcohol, with another area for performances and exhibitions.




Recommended by Giles Cooper and Maft Sai



Highway 4

101 Tran Thai Tong, Cau Giay. (+84) 7305-5665 www.highway4.com 

The longstanding Highway 4 just recently moved to a new building which takes the rustic route thanks to its red bricks, bare cement and light brown wooden furniture. The focus is still on traditional Vietnamese cuisine and a drinks list that includes concoctions made with a local rice spirit called Son Tinh. 

Quan An Ngon 

18 Phan Boi Chau Street, Hoan Kiem. (+84) 3942-8162/63. http://ngonhanoi.com.vn 

Set in a teak house, this restaurant offers up home-style Vietnamese dishes in keeping with the vibe of the street they’re located on, which is famous for its street stalls selling pho. 

La Badiane

10 Nam Ngu Street, Hoan Kiem. +84 (4) 3942-4509. www.labadiane-hanoi.com 

Focusing on international gastronomy and fusion food. Set in an old white colonial-inspired building, surrounded by lots of trees, the place offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and is all about wine pairings and cocktails. 



Bars & Clubs 

Recommended by Maft Sai, Space 360, Giles Cooper and Douglas Pyper




Founded by the CAMA group when they launched their CAMA festival back in 2005, this one-room bar is the epicenter of independent music in Hanoi. To give you some idea: this is the place where crate-digging DJ The Dude of Stratosphere played before heading to Moose earlier this month, while rapper Heems performs here on Jan 24 before joining Popscene in Bangkok (Jan 25). Of course, the place also serves up killer cocktails.    

Hanoi Rock City

If CAMA-ATK is the Vietnamese version of WTF or Moose Bangkok, Hanoi Rock City would be Cosmic Café or Harmonica, host to regular lineups of up-and-coming local artists. Owner Phu Pham founded the place back in 2010 in order to support independent artists and establish one of the best places to catch live gigs in the country.  

Chez Xuan 

This outdoor bar in a garden setting is good for a spot of pre-gaming. The standalone house is decked out with heaps of Chinese-Vietnamese decorations, while the food spans South East Asia. http://chezxuan.com          



Last year, Hanoi hosted the very first ASEAN Music Festival, featuring performances by bands from Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. With a second edition in the works for this May, we talk to two of the event’s in-the-know organizers, Giles Cooper and Douglas Pyper of CAMA Vietnam (www.camavietnam.org).   

What’s the art, music and nightlife scene like in Hanoi now?

Giles: There's a hell of a lot more going on here these days than when CAMA got started. The local scene, by and for Vietnamese, has really exploded over the last couple of years but it's still a challenging environment to operate in.

Douglas: It’s still very limited. Particularly now, the scene feels very one step forward, two steps back. Last year, a disused pharmaceutical factory in the center of the city became available for rent at reasonable rates, and young, creative people began to move in. Known as Zone 9, the space became home to the usual array of bars, cafes and restaurants, but also art galleries, workshops, and music venues. But unfortunately, the space was closed down by the government last month, and the renters all lost their investment.  

"The local scene by and for Vietnamese has really exploded."

What do you think will be the big trend this year? 

Giles: Steve Aoki played a show in Hanoi at the end of last year that was well attended and I can see 2014 throwing up more and more of that type of big-name action, assuming sponsors are willing to come on board to fund such shows.  Personally speaking, that sort of thing doesn't interest me at all and I'd like to see more grassroots development of Vietnamese youth getting out and about on a regular basis to enjoy more esoteric offerings from local and international indie acts.

Douglas: It’s extremely hard to say at this point, as the city has lost so many venues in such a short space of time. One trend I expect to see continuing to develop is an increase in small-scale acoustic venues featuring solo singer-songwriters/performers. I think we’ll generally see small venues and cafes looking to put on, informal performances as competition for customers heat up and demand for this kind of entertainment increases.

What's the best thing about living in Hanoi?

Giles: It's hard to look past a report that came out just this week declaring Vietnam to have the cheapest beer in the world (bia hoi).  But, if I had to, I'd say it's the “can do” energy of the place: beg forgiveness if necessary, don't ask permission.   

Manila, Philippines

Top festivals to look forward to this year

Fete de la WSK

When/Where: November (Dates/Venue TBA)

What: Organized by SABAW Media Art Kitchen, Fete de la WSK is the Philippines’ only international festival of arts and new media. The festival promotes the country’s rising artists, with exhibitions spanning installations, video, film and experimental music both from local and international artists.  


International Silent Film Festival

When/Where: August/ Shang Cineplex Mandaluyong 

What: Claiming to be Asia’s only silent film festival, this is a collaboration between the Japan Foundation, Goethe-Institute, Instituto Cervantes Manila and several foreign embassies. Films screened come from as far afield as Germany, Italy and Japan.    

Manila Music Festival

When/Where: May (Dates/Venue TBA)

What: This is not unlike a smaller version of our Big Mountain Music Festival. Founded in 2012, putting the focus fairly and squarely on local artists with a few international ring-ins. There’s also a separate stage for more experimental electronic sounds. 

Top places to visit


Art Spaces

Reccomended by Theculturetrip.com




Pablo Gallery 

Cubao X Branch: Shop 7 Cubao X, Gen. Romulo St., Araneta Center, Quezon City.  (+63 2) 440-8807. 

Fort Branch: C-11 South of Market, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. (+63 2)400-7905. http://pablogalleries.com  

Set in a two-story shophouse, the first branch (Pablo X) looks a lot like a cute café, but inside it’s filled with oft-challenging rotating exhibitions from rising local artists. The second branch (Pablo Fort) keeps to the same art-friendly vibe but puts more focus on established artists.  

Manila Contemporary

Whitespace 2314, Chino roces Avenue, Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City.  (+63 2) 576-5024. http://manilacontemporary.com

Located in a proper, very clean white building, this place offers up all of its 360-sq-meters of high-ceilinged space to exhibiting contemporary artworks from young artists from the Philippines as well as other Southeast Asian countries. The main space promises 12 exhibitions a year while the smaller room on the second floor is for popup events.      

Green Papaya Art Projects

41B T. Gener St, Kamuning, Quezon City. www.greenpapayaprojects.org

Sat in the middle of a commercial district, this old two-story shophouse is one of the city’s longest standing independently-run art spaces. It’s not only a place to catch exhibitions, but also art talks, gigs and more creative events from locals and international artists.



Recommended by Martin Archer (founder of asia-bars.com)



Las Flores

Fort Bonifacio. G/F One Mckinley Place, 25th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. (+63 2) 552-2815.

Las Flores serves up modern European/Spanish cuisine with lots of happening brunch, lunch and wine pairing events making the place always lively. Their creative cocktails and extended opening hours make it a tempting place to settle for the night.       

Museum Café

Ayala Museum Complex, Dela Rosa Street, Makati City. (+63 2)757-3000. 

Located on the ground floor of Ayala Museum Complex, the Museum Café, or M Café, serves up traditional Filipino dishes as well as other Asian favorites with an emphasis on modern presentation. With both indoor and outdoor zones, a proper bar and DJ booth on one side, the place is not so much a formal restaurant as a place to chill out. Museum is also known from its brunch events and occasional traditional performances.

Victorino’s Restaurant

11th Jamboree Street corner Scout Rallos, Quezon City. 091-795-30661.

Victorio’s Restaurant is the place to head for home-cooked Ilocano cuisine. This old house-turned-restaurant already offers a real escape from the crowds of Manila’s many, many malls.    



Bars & Clubs 


Recommended by Martin Archer, Maft Sai and Space 360




Rocket Room

7th Avenue Corner 30th Street, G/F Bonifacio High Street Central, Fort Bonifacio. (+63 2)621-3222.

Rocket Room is a hip bar and club—sort of Manila’s version of Moose Bangkok. Decked out in a stylish industrial-retro vibe, it serves as a chill café by day and chic party spot post-sunset thanks to the wide selection of wine, beers, cocktails and DJs spinning all week.




The Collective, 7274 Malugay St. San Antonio Village. Makati City. www.bsidemanila.com 

Think of it as a slightly bigger version of Café Democ during its ‘00s heyday; B-Side is all about propping up independent/underground acts with occasional international DJs and acts brought in. Best known for its Sunday Irie weekly party that serves up reggae and dub with impressive visuals. “One of the best weekly parties in Manila,” says Bangkok's DJ Maft Sai.

Black Market

Warehouse 5, LA Fuerza Compound 2, Sabio St., Makati. (+63)908-813-5622.

Not as dodgy as the name sounds, Black Market may be set in a redecorated warehouse, but the focus is on up-to-the-minute electronic music. Aside from their weekly parties (Wednesday is hip hop/soul, Friday is bass music and Saturday is techno) Black Market is where big names like DJ Krush and Kode 9 perform when in town. Guess where Heems and Onra performed before coming to Bangkok this weekend?

Three Southeast Asian Indie Acts to Check Out 



Country: The Philippines 

Why you’ll like them: Filipino acoustic pop performer Francis Yu, better known as Archaster, is immediately recognizable for his deep charming voice, which is a little reminiscent of Kings of Convenience’s Erlend Øye or Thailand's Thee Chaidej. His previous songs pair melancholic lyrics with dreamy-pop (“Dreamland”) and psychedelic-infused pop (“Letter to Montecarlo” and “Oakwood Avenue”). But what really caught our ear is his latest release, “I Love You More Than Summer Time,” which leaves the sadness behind to be a real breezy summer anthem. www.soundcloud.com/archaster


Afternoon Talk

Country: Indonesia

Why you’ll like them: Ask any self-respecting Thai indie kid and they’ll tell you that 2013 belonged to Part Time Musicians. Well, we’d say this Indonesian three-piece serves up a very similar blend of folk and indie-pop. Our guys might liven things up with more intense guitar sounds and violin, but Afternoon Talk keeps things pretty interesting, too, with some driving percussion and ukulele on tracks like the upbeat “Island” and slightly harder-edged “Hearts,” which is on their latest EP, Contradiction. www.facebook.com/afternoontalk


Lyna Trina

Country: Vietnam

Why you’ll like her: If you like strong female vocals accompanied by sparse guitar or piano (think Rachel Yamagata or Daughter), you’ll find much to admire in this Vietnamese bedroom artist. Lyna Trina caught our attention through her YouTube channel, which shows so much more than a pretty girl doing pop covers (yeah, well, she does play some covers). Her self-produced tracks, like her latest “Without,” are easy on the ear but veer from the sweet to the heart-wrenching. www.soundcloud.com/lynatrina/withoutdemo


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