Bui Vien Street is well-known in Ho Chi Minh City due to its status as a hub for backpackers and party-going tourists. Perhaps no other street in Vietnam is met with such polarisation as this one.
Some see Bui Vien Street as an exhilarating concoction of hedonistic stimuli whilst others look down upon it with disgust and disdain. No matter which side of the fence you find yourself on, there’s no denying that Bui Vien Street is successful in its mission to fascinate the lucrative tourist sector.
The Walking Street
Bui Ven street offers bars, restaurants, and hostels aplenty. A daytime visit will show Bui Vien in its dormancy, filled with only the chitter-chatter from the restaurants and a symphony of motor vehicles whizzing by.
This, however, is only temporary. As dusk begins to descend on Bui Vien, a sinking feeling of anticipation begins to infiltrate the bodies of locals and tourists. The raucous atmosphere and hedonistic aura are comparable to the Las Vegas Strip.
Street performers start entertaining passers-by as drinkers in plastic chairs watch from the bar terraces. Scantily-dressed females begin commandeering the street’s nooks and crannies hoping to lure tourists into suspect massage parlors.
Drunk backpackers fall to the ground under fluorescent light thinking they’ve just stumbled upon the gates of heaven.
A Modern Phenomenon
Thirty-five years ago, Bui Vien was a forgettable strip in the middle of District 1. It wasn’t until Vietnam’s tourism sector opened in 1986 that Bui Vien began to evolve into its current incarnation. The streets growing notoriety began to attract more and more visitors until, finally, it became what it is today.
Backpackers began to take full advantage of the cheap hostels and bars and the proprietors of such establishments had no problem allowing them to do so.
Traffic is banned during weekend evenings to allow the Bui Vien juggernaut to come to life at dusk. While alcohol is the most widely-consumed and available substance, there is a vice for all niches on Bui Ven, evidenced by the flock of characters that come crawling to its corners at night.
If you’re not a particularly big drinker, it’s perhaps best if you park yourself in a plastic chair outside one of the restaurants and watch the crazy underworld of Bui Vien scream by.
Anything can happen on Bui Ven and a feeling of impending excitement takes hold of you whenever you enter. While gentrification has caused the street to lose a little of its old thrill, the excitement and drama that unfolds there every night is truly unmatched and has to be seen to be believed.
Bui Vien is so much more than a mere street – it’s an experience that spans the full spectrum of human emotions, urges, and desires. You’ll be enchanted into its spellbinding haze and it serves as a soaring crescendo to your trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
Address: Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Season: Year-Round | Best at night