An avenue which opened to traffic about one year ago has grown into one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most bustling pub hubs.
The section of Pham Van Dong Avenue from Gia Dinh Park to the new Binh Loi Bridge in Binh Thanh District, which was opened to traffic early last year, is now home to some hundred pubs of various sizes and styles.
The almost 2-km long street section has changed beyond recognition, with boring sidewalk cafes turned into scores of packed pubs, from upscale to basic.
Every night, particularly on weekends, the area welcomes several thousand clients from all walks of life, ranging from the rich to office workers, students and thugs. Traffic is usually congested around midnight.
Hustle and bustle
At midnight on Saturday, Tuoi Tre (Youth) reporters saw a woman furiously swearing at her husband, who was drinking heavily with his friends at a snail pub on Pham Van Dong Avenue.
The man angrily retorted and was about to strike her when his friends interfered and talked him into going home with his wife.
A client told the reporters that the woman and their children collect garbage for a living.
Her husband, who works as a “xe om” (motorbike taxi), hangs around the pubs on the street several times a week and doesn’t provide for his family.
As Tuoi Tre reporters observed, a paradox exists at the pubs: casual, half-naked men usually enter the beer clubs, which are on the rise in the country’s major cities, or luxury Korean-styled pubs; while office-workers and women wearing brand-name clothes prefer to sit on mats on the sidewalk. On one Thursday night, D., a barber shop owner in Phu Nhuan District, and ten friends, entered a pub, gulped down beer and had fun until midnight. The evening cost them VND1.5 million ($71).
“We each only paid VND150,000 for a night of fun. The area is bustling, drafty and offers diverse services for reasonable prices, so we come here two or three times a week,” D. said.
Around midnight on one Friday night, a group of youths left B.G. pub for their homes in District 8.
“We don’t mind the long distance, as it’s really fun and cool here,” one of them shared.
Meanwhile, a group of university students chose to relish their drinks at a Korean-styled pub with tables which are 30cm tall.
“We don’t like the bustle out there and prefer the serene, cozy atmosphere of this pub,” Thanh H., one member of the group, shared.
At O. D. pub, a group of young thugs with tattoos all over their chests were drinking while swearing heavily.
Several pubs draw masses of clients, including stylish men and women, by offering mats for them to sit on the sidewalk and bowls to drink from.
They even choose to have kerosene lamps in the middle of their group, just like casual gatherings in rural areas.
The pub owners regularly come up with new dishes and attractions to lure more customers.
While scores of pubs offer a wide variety of meat grilled on tiles, others offer 50 dishes of meat barbecued on rocks.
Competition is so intense that several owners have quit after just a few months in operation.
One pub owner who is offering to transfer his pub for just over VND100 million ($4,707) complained that newcomers usually invest up to VND 1 billion (USD47,000), leaving small pubs like his helpless to keep up.
Several beer clubs - a trendy, more affordable type of pub - have also cropped up in the area.
Doan Thanh D., a university student who lives nearby, said that he has a drink at a new pub at least once almost every week, but still has not returned to the same one a second time after almost one year.
Locals are also vexed by all the noise coming from the pubs.
Thanh H., who lives in an alley nearby, shared that her son, who is studying at a local university, has quit his part-time job and usually hangs around the pubs.