Saigon stretches its legs with new walking streets plan in backpacker district

By Staff reporters   December 4, 2017 | 07:26 pm PT
Saigon stretches its legs with new walking streets plan in backpacker district
People enjoy a vehicle-free night on Bui Vien, Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
The public will have their say on the expansion of the city's already popular pedestrian area.

Saigon is polling public opinion about making more streets in its backpacker area pedestrian-friendly, a plan which aims to provide a bigger venue for the Lunar New Year celebrations in mid-February.

At a meeting on Monday, the city's government instructed its tourism department to seek public opinion on turning De Tham and Do Quang Dau into walking streets. Both streets cross Bui Vien, which is already pedestrianized over the weekends.

The switch, if approved, should ideally be completed by the Lunar New Year, the country’s biggest festival which will peak on February 16, the city said, as cited by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. Vietnam’s labor ministry has proposed a seven-day break from February 14-20 to mark the holiday, which will need the official nod from the prime minister.

Bui Vien and the two streets up for discussion sit at the heart of Saigon’s popular tourism precinct, which is packed with bars, restaurants and dance clubs. The area pulls in around 2,000 tourists on its best days and earns more than VND37 billion ($1.63 million) a year.

The city spent VND13 billion ($572,300) on granite paving, music stages, surveillance cameras, security guards, free wifi and public toilets to turn Bui Vien into a weekend walking zone in August.

Nguyen Hue, the first walking street to open in the crowded city in 2015, has become an attraction to locals and foreigners alike.

Saigon, Vietnam’s biggest commercial center, is one of the most popular destinations in the country.

During the first six months, foreign arrivals increased 14 percent from a year ago to nearly 2.8 million, while the tourism sector raked in VND53.6 trillion ($2.4 billion), up 12 percent from the same period last year, according to the city’s tourism department.

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