Meet the man behind Ho Chi Minh City’s vintage signboards
duonghanhnguyen 23-07-2022, 10:22

Walk through any neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh City and it’s a given that you’ll stumble across coffee shops and restaurants with unique, vintage signboards proudly displayed at front.

What many people don’t know, however, is that many of these signboards are hand-drawn by a single artist: Nguyen Hoai Bao.

Bao first learned his craft at the age of 12 while working alongside his father in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap. 

For the next several years, Bao worked with his father until moving to Ho Chi Minh City in 2003 to study graphic design.

Eventually, Bao decided to open a vintage signboard shop named “Mot Minh Lam Het” (All By Myself) at 463/13G Cach Mang Thang Tam Street in District 10 where he produces custom signs for cafes and eateries around the city.



Vintage signboards on display at Nguyen Hoai Bao’s shop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

“It was hard to find customers when I first opened because no one knew me,” Bao shared.

“It took me about a year until I began to make connections thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations.

“Now, I’ve been able to follow my passion for over five years.”

It typically takes Bao four to five days to finish a small-sized board, and each sign fetches anywhere from VND800,000 to millions of Vietnam dong depending on the size and requirements of the project. (US$1 = VND23,415).

“I’ve made more than 100 signboards. My customers typically prefer vintage fonts,” Bao said.



Nguyen Hoai Bao works on a signboard at his shop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Nguyen Hoai Bao mixes colors for a signboard. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Nguyen Hoai Bao works on the design for a hand-drawn signboard for a customer. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Nguyen Hoai Bao looks at signboards he made for a hair salon and a snack shop. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Nguyen Hoai Bao finishes the details of a signboard for a vegetable shop. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Vintage signboards on display at Nguyen Hoai Bao’s shop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Nguyen Hoai Bao hard at work in his shop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A signboard created by Nguyen Hoai Bao is installed at a dessert shop in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

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Ngoc Phuong - Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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