Happy Life 185
This list is in no particular order — except for this one. It’s been the home of too many good nights for us to be completely unbiased. The staff are all wonderful people who’ve put up with a lot of nonsense. They go out of their way to make sure people are having fun. The best part is they’re open all night, so you can party at whatever pace suits you. Get inside, request some songs, and dance until your legs give out, or just sit outside and chat. Happy Life — or Club 185 to many of its regulars — is a bit of an institution among the many English teachers in the city. You’ll meet interesting people from around the world, and sometimes you’ll even meet some of the worst kinds of people. That’s Bui Vien for you.
This one is the odd one out on this list. Think of it as the kid from a horrible family who rose above it all and made something nice and decent for themselves. From high upon a perch over Bui Vien, The View gives one hell of a look at the blocky cement-scape that is downtown Saigon. It’s also one of the few places on Bui Vien where you can get quality cocktails — but you’ll pay for them. The View is probably the nicest place on this list. It’s a great spot if you’re not interested in watching Bui Vien’s seedier bits. Go inside the Duc Vuong Hotel and take the elevator as high as you can go. Then take the stairs up another floor. Enjoy the views.
The View Rooftop Bar, 195 Bùi Viện, District 1 +84 28 3838 6708
96 Bui Vien
When it comes to no-frills drinking on Bui Vien, 96 takes the gold. The family running this little holdout of old school Bui Vien doesn’t hand out smiles to just anyone, but when you get one, you feel like a million dong. With garish beer clubs taking over the whole length of Bui Vien, 96 is where you can experience what Bui Vien used to be — crude, full of weirdos, and a gruff matron who doesn’t put up with any nonsense.
Sky Bar Corner
If you’d rather look down at the weirdness of Bui Vien from a safe distance, then plop your bottom into a proper chair at the Sky Bar Corner. The drinks are pricier, but that means the clientele isn’t all haggard backpackers who haven’t showered since Thailand. Definitely one of the fancier options in the area.
The Hideaway Bar
This is the newest place on this list. It has hipper vibe than the rest of Bui Vien, and live bands play here all the time, so keep an eye on their Facebook page.
The Hideaway Bar, : 40/15 Bùi Viện, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão +84 90 279 99 62
Beer 102 Bui Vien
In the same vein as the blurb about 96 above, Beer 102 Bui Vien is one of the old school places all clumped together in a wild scene of plastic chairs and drunks. During peak tourist season, this stretch of Bui Vien is pure madness. If you have one night to spend in Ho Chi Minh City, spend it here.
Ong Cao, Craft Beer
Craft beer has finally appeared in Bui Vien. Ong Cao pours some of the best brews the city has to offer — names like Pasteur Street Brewing Company, Fuzzy Logic, Tê Tê and Platinum. Vietnam’s craft beer scene was non-existent just a few years ago, but now it’s spreading like an awesome disease. Gone are the days of just Tiger, 333 and the Saigon beers. Of all the changes happening on Bui Vien, the introduction of craft beer is one we fully support — and you should, too.
Universal is a popular spot to watch sports on Bui Vien. They’re open around the clock, so whatever time zone your game is in, Universal will be open.
Universal Pub, 90 Bùi Viện, Phạm Ngũ Lão +84 94 563 24 49
This bar is a self-proclaimed dive bar, and it fits the bill. It’s dark, dingy, and a bit hard to find because it’s just a hole-in-the-wall down a side street off of Bui Vien. It’s the perfect place to end the night — or to start the morning. Be careful on your way to the bathroom. It’s usually an obstacle course of pool cues, spaced-out dancers, and wobbly drunks.
The best part about Bi’s Bar is that you get to sit on stools instead of tiny plastic chairs. If nothing else, you’ll at least get a better look at all the weirdness happening around you. Their cocktails are also some of the best on Bui Vien. Plus, the bar is located in a great spot for watching the evening’s festivities.
Bonus: The Sidewalk
Once you’ve had your fill of Bui Vien’s deafening music and barely-contained aggression, bring your drink outside and take a seat on the dusty sidewalk to chat and watch the community around you. Grab a snack. Enjoy the scenery. Tourists are one part of the show, but the locals are much more interesting. They’re street smart, aged in an environment where they had to mature very quickly. Chat with some of them to hear the history of Bui Vien. It’s a story of war and astonishing change. Bui Vien is pure humanity — both ugly and endearing.