Bui Vien is the central street in the backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh. At night, the street heaves with the coming and going of motorcycle and taxi traffic, which have to literally push through the body of people that line the pavement and road. There are small, re-purposed shops that sell tourists and locals alike extremely cheap bottled Saigon beer. From separate sides of the road the locals watch the tourists, and vice versa. Every night is a weekend.
On the longest of our night-outs on Bui Vien we met some expats, who had been teachers, but now worked in Ho Chi Minh’s emerging financial district. Their lifestyle seemed relaxed, they had enough money to drink every night, and motorbiked around the city during the day. They all seemed to know the local girls and where to get good food and cheap beer. There was something inspiring in the fact that this life is potentially easily obtainable for someone who can speak English.
Food! Along Bu Vien there are local street vendor specialties to try, like dry Squid, which tasted like fish jerky. If you want full-on food there’s a mix of both Western food and delicious Pho to munch down on post-drinking. Squat on small plastic chairs in a restaurant where they wash the bowls in the toilet. Hygiene ratings aside, the food went down and stayed down.
Small clubs are hidden down alleyways that play all kinds of music. I wish I could be more specific, but I can’t remember where they were, or what they’re called. I accidentally stumbled into a club full of huge, bronzed and sweaty Australians and forgot where I was for a second. No chance of getting a drink. It was like I’d walked into a Hollywood rendition of a college frat-party and I didn’t belong.
Bui Vien seemed to meet like an eclectic mix of every tourist you meet whilst on holiday, and are attracted to because you can both speak English, and a generally very hospitable range of locals willing to chat and interact, and people watch, with their visitors. There’s something in the bustling charm of this street, but I fear that you could become entrapped here, and from the Australians and Americans partying in their tank-tops, I got the feeling that they’d been out and about on the street every night, treating Old Saigon like a drinking getaway.
Bui Vien is for one night only, maybe two.
From then on in the night, stumbling out of the club, I was too drunk to figure out where I was, and with girlfriend in bed and the night getting older I decided it was best to wander back to the hotel.