Many of us 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, creating a carnival-like atmosphere.
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 development.
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 gradual pedestrianisation of streets around Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake over the past few years.
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 touted would 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 around safely without the prospect of getting run over by those pesky little motorbikes.
PHOTO BY OLGA ROZENBAJGIER
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