New buildings and Old buildings in
downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

(Note: I’ve included some pictures from the 5th floor of the hotel – they didn’t really fit anywhere else.)

Following the confusion regarding the state of the party (namely, was it still a party? Had it ever really been a party, or had it really been dinner all along?), my new friend Malte and I descended to the elevator, debating what to do next. The absurdity of the situation was such that we had a hard time believing that we were leaving a wedding before 2am!
On one hand, it was 9:30pm, we were dressed up, and we weren’t far from the late-night bacchanalia parade that is known as Bui Vien. On the other hand… actually the only other question that came up turned out to be that age old quandary: walk it or taxi?
There’s greenery on everything here!
A problem for buildings, I imagine.
The weather that Friday evening was pleasant and we decided to stroll over, seeing if we could do it without getting lost.  The walk gave us our after-dinner wind and we got to Bui Vien in no time (and only making one error! I felt like a champ!… even though Malte was double checking on his smart phone, ha ha). A little girl practiced her English greetings on us (this happens to me all the time. Literally every single day kids will yell “hello!” or “Good morning!” or “How are you?” at me and then just beam) and we slowly made our way across District 1 (D1) in our wedding clothes. Crossing the September 23 Park and turning south down an alley, Malte finally informed we that we’d found the least-seedy part of Bui Vien.
A view down the street from the balcony.
I’d only been to Bui Vien once before, and I left early in the evening, so I didn’t know how a Friday night would go down in Saigon’s Party Central. From this experience, I could say that you could find anything questionable you were looking for in this section of town. It’s known as the backpackers district, and there is cheap beer, food, massages, and beer down all of it’s 3 or 4 block stroll. I recently came across a news story from a few years ago declaring that the government was going to clean up Bui Vien. Either they succeeded, and it was even nuttier before (an almost impossible concept), or they failed, and it’s still just flat out crazy.
That’s a fish shaped and lit like a
giant fish in the background.
Our first bar was a dud – Malte has a bar buddy he usually meets there, but she was out that night. There was a live band in a room the size of my hotel room, and it was too loud to talk. After a Tiger beer we headed out again, looking for somewhere on the street where we could people watch and chat, but that hopefully wasn’t too pushy with the girls.
Traffic dwindled the later it got, but the ‘hood never really
goes to sleep, it seems.
We eventually found this place, and it suited us pretty well. We got to know each other and drank beer until the wee hours, every few minutes or so interrupted by someone who wanted to sell us the usual things: paper fans, flashlights, hashish. Sometimes they would send their kids over with a basket of whatever to ask us in adorable English. We saw kids out the entire night, as young as a year old (that one wasn’t peddling, but her mom was). Cigarettes were out every 30 seconds, a portable smoke shop appearing out of a briefcase and disappearing with a shake of the head. We drank 333, THE Saigon beer of choice, pronounced “ba ba” (I think).
There were uncountable food carts that passed us over the course of the evening, cooking on the spot. A bit down the street a little boy swallowed a live snake up to the halfway point (it was pretty awful to witness) and then asked for money. No way. Poor snake! People, bikes, cabs, and more people thronged the street until late in the evening.The street scene didn’t even START to diminish until we were ready to leave, about 3:30am. And who knows, it might have just been getting it’s second wind! We were still getting shouts of “Girls! Beer!” from the bars we passed on our way to a taxi.
There were girls here at this bar, too, but they left us alone.
One of them looked no older than 11 or 12… very sad.
We stopped and got a few more beers at this convenience store near our hotel, some water, and a sandwich. It was about 4 or so. I hadn’t been out this late before in Saigon, and we were having a ball. 
Our hotel had a sign in my room saying that the hotel closed between 11pm and 5am, but Malte reported that he’d been out seeing the soccer finals weeks earlier and they’d told him graciously to ring the buzzer anytime he got back. My response to all that was, “We have a buzzer?” You learn something new every day!
People everywhere.
Well, it turns out that since their son had gotten married and they’d had to have drinks with 500 people that night, they weren’t responding to that buzzer at 4am. And who can blame them?! Malte and I ended up sitting in front of the main house gate in the alley, drinking beer and talking about going to Cambodia on a bus. Like you do.
There was one Vietnamese man who came by on a bike and tried to mime something to us for over half an hour. We gave him a beer and tried to figure out if he could speak English or not. We think he couldn’t? It’s very hard to tell sometimes, because people will often just nod and say yes in response to any kind of question. We tried to use google translate, but determined that he couldn’t read or write, which was jarring to me. 
There were several recurring motions he was making: motorbike handles taking off into the sky (not a clue), a noodle eating action and the sign for 7:30am (maybe? this seemed definite), a spinning finger action (ride around the city?), and a parting thumbs action (…a gate opening? NO CLUE). We thought maybe he wanted to give us a tour of the city (no seriously, the xe om never sleep), or make us wait until 7:30 (2.5 hours? NOPE) to eat noodles at the noodle stand that was setting up a couple meters from us. We were completely baffled, but it was fun to laugh about. I was a little tempted to stay out and get noodles, but after we got in the building all desire to do anything but hit my bed vanished.
THE Saigon beer: 333
An hour passed before another buzz brought the husband. Sheepishly we came inside and kicked off our shoes, apologizing for the early hour. He said not to mention it, and I believed him. His whole family is just as gracious. Before going up our respective halves of the hotel, Malte and I exchanged facebook info and agreed that it had been a pretty badass night. I was exhausted but exhilarated: an amazing wedding + new English-speaking friend + food + beer = an amazing experience! 
Even so, I couldn’t fall asleep right away. I stayed up for another hour working on this blog before I finally passed out, confident that if I was ever invited to another wedding while I was here, I wouldn’t embarrass myself.
And with that, my wedding adventure was finally over. Thanks for reading!


The Wedding links:

The Wedding: The Invite and the Traditional Gift
The Wedding: Culture, Confetti, and an Awesome Surprise
The Wedding: Food, Conversation, and Bia in the Evening Heat
The Wedding: Choose Your Own After-party Adventure