Saigon’s legendary party street ditches the vehicles in favour of feet
words: MATTHEW COWAN | photos: OLGA ROZENBAJGIER
Well, they said it was coming but we were never quite sure when. Many of us probably thought we would never see the day that something so progressive would hit the streets of the backpacker district, Pham Ngu Lao. We’re more accustomed to broken bottles and glasses, errant vomit and the well-worn high heels of ladies of the night hitting that street (sorry, couldn’t help it).
Following a month-long delay (it could’ve been more), Bui Vien’s Walking Street was officially opened in August. On opening night, two stages were set up featuring performances, alongside street food stalls and the usual shenanigans of the strip.
The People’s Committee of District 1 had piloted a vehicle ban from 7pm until 2am at weekends in the period leading up to the official opening of the walking street to test the waters — they obviously liked what they saw. Drainage pipes were also replaced, along with the footpaths that run the length of the street in an improvement project that to this point has received the tick of approval from just about everyone.
There are reportedly 146 businesses operating along the nightlife strip, including hotels, restaurants, bars and small clubs, coffee shops and clothing and souvenir stores that will benefit from the tidy up.
Walk This Way
The Bui Vien Walking Street follows the 2015 redevelopment of Nguyen Hue Street (HCMC’s main drag) into a walking street and the pedestrianisation of streets around Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake last year.
Ultimately, Bui Vien’s transformation into a walking street is part of a bigger plan to pedestrianise a larger swathe of the streets of District 1. If and when that happens is anyone’s guess, but if Nguyen Hue and Bui Vien are anything to go by — projects that the government has touted will happen — they will in fact happen…at some stage. Then, expect more zones in central Saigon in the future where shoppers, travellers and workers can walk safely around without the prospect of getting run over by those pesky little motorbikes.