What is a typical night at what is known as the ‘drinking town’ on Bui Vien Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s downtown area like?
Even though it is dubbed the ‘backpackers’ area,’ Vietnamese drinkers are not hard to be seen at this busy street, even though it is as late as two in the morning, as a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter observed on Saturday.
At 1:00 am, beer shops along the street were all filled with drinkers, and Bui Vien just became busier and more exciting with a mixture of sounds, from the cheering shouts as people tossed their beer, to the roars of motorbike racers.
At this ‘backpacker’s area,’ young Vietnamese men and women were seen drinking and smoking a lot, and the period between midnight and 2:00 am is considered ‘golden hours’ for beer sellers.
Hoang Mai, a server at a drinking shop on Bui Vien, said foreign guests only ordered a couple bottles of beer each, so it is Vietnamese customers that she serves the most in recent years.
“They are young employed people in Saigon, who drink a lot, especially from 11:00 pm to 2:00 or 3:00 am the following day,” she said.
Mai said it is not uncommon to see Vietnamese women fail to leave the store on their own as they are overdrunk.
“In the meantime, male customers tend to cause fights even over small confliction,” she added.
Nguyen Hoai Nam, introducing himself as a ‘real drinker,’ said Bui Vienm is his must-go destination every weekend.
Nam will meet his friends from 10:00 pm, and they only leave four hours later.
“We are all stressed from work and drinking that late does not affect our work or other relationships,” he explained.
“At our ages, gathering at a drinking party is the only way for get-together.
“We will fall into silence after a few minutes chatting over a coffee table, but when it comes to drinking beer overnight, we can speak anything to kill stress.”
For Mai Tuan, a 21-year-old student for a Ho Chi Minh City’s private university, drinking beer on Bui Vien should go with smoking shisha.
Tuan spoke to Tuoi Tre at 2:00 am, after finishing his ‘routine’ drinking.
“I never drink more than five bottles, but I love sitting there chatting through the night with friends,” he said.
Tuan and his friends love to smoke shisha, which he said is a cheap service but can “create a relaxing atmosphere” for everyone.
Such a drinking and smoking habit is raising a few eyebrows in Vietnam, and is illustrative for a recent national report by United Nations Population Fund in Vietnam, which points out that the young Vietnamese are “unfit, smoke a lot, and consume loads of alcohol.”
This overdrunk girl had an accident after a drinking party on Bui Vien.Photo: Tuoi Tre