Bui Vien is probably the best known street amongst the backpacker crowd. Although the guide books often quote Pham Ngu Lao as the main backpacker Street, Bui Vien which runs parallel to it, is easily the busiest. It is an unbelievable sight late at night on the weekend. Dozens of bars, street food stall, street vendors and the backpacker community, lend a party atmosphere most of the time.
It is almost two streets in one, by day it is mainly shops selling trinkets and pashminas, coffee and sandwiches. At night however every thing changes and it becomes bars, noise, colour and a vibrant throbbing mass of humanity. Massage shops are everywhere from the legitimate to the not so. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference.
In recent months the police have clamped down on the bars for having seating spreading into the road. It was quite a sight, to be honest, the road was getting narrower and narrower and the seating areas bigger and bigger. Sitting on the outside edge of an outside area was really taking your life in your hands as motorbikes whizzed by, inches from unsuspecting drinkers. It is a bit calmer now, though no doubt it will soon start creeping back to what it was like before.
Bui Vien is a kind of informal walking street.
The road is one way for cars at all times, but these rules never apply to motorbikes. It takes a bit of Saigon savvy to walk along here during the busy times. It is though a fun place to be. The bars vary tremendously from sports bars like Universal, to the somewhat seedy girlie bars, all bright lights and short skirts. Many expats drink in the sports bars and at weekend it really is an eclectic mix of expats, locals, holidays makers and backpackers. Everyone seems to get along well and there is rarely any trouble.
One word of warning though, pick pockets do operate in this area and sadly they damage the reputation of the many good people in Saigon. But it is no worse than many other major cities around the world. As always, keep your wits about you and ladies, leave your bag in the hotel and use your pockets!
Don’t be put off by this, no visit to Saigon would be complete without a late night drink on the thriving little street.