Last night, I grabbed a GRAB, Vietnam’s version of Uber, and ventured out on my own to meet up with some people I got to know during my last trip to Ho Chi Minh City in November. My friend Matt Nguyen owns and manages one of the six LGBTQ+ bars in Saigon named Thi Bar, and it is located in District 1, just down the street from the bustling hot spot for backpackers, tourists and party people, Bui Vien Walking Street.
I arrived just before 8pm, and Bui Vien Walking Street reminded me of a cross between Times Square and Hollywood/Highland, with the back to back bars of Santa Monica Blvd. in Weho. Every bar, restaurant and club was packed full of revelers, chair dancing to techno music, drinking Tiger Beer and sucking on giant Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) filled balloons, which are ordered through your waiter or the bar. I was told you need a special bar permit to sell Nitrous balloons, and found it totally fascinating that it is legal and common here, considering the country’s highly strict and severe drug laws. I also caught the familiar scent of marijuana in the air, which is illegal in Vietnam, but evidently accepted here and smoked freely and publicly on every bar patio. There was definitely an aura of depravity in the streets, as people were there with the sole purpose of getting their festivities ON.
Matt WhatsApp’d me that he would be arriving in an hour or so, so I sat down on a plastic stool at a street cart for a steaming bowl of Beef Pho, Vietnam’s national dish. At 95,000 VND, or $4, it was a completely delicious and satisfying base for the inevitable overabundance of cocktails to come.
After dinner, I wandered around a bit, checked out a few street performers and compared the prices of several local massage parlors. I made sure to to keep my cell phone housed in my fanny pack, when not taking photos, as pick-pockets and petty thieves lurk in the shadows, actively hunting for their next Westerner mark. After my tour of the block, I finally made my way to Thi Bar, and sat on the patio with Matt and his friends for beer, multiple shots and great conversation.
If you are looking for the place in town to go bar hopping, meet new people and get your party started, I definitely recommend visiting Bui Vien St. When you do, make sure to pit stop at Thi Bar and say hi to Matt as we all need to support LGBTQ+ inclusive establishments, especially here in Vietnam.
Thanks for Wanderlusting with me!