The Pham Ngu Lao area of District 1 is where most backpacking travelers first land in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a similar scene to Southeast Asia's most famous backpacking centre, Khao San Road in Bangkok, but on a smaller scale. The main thoroughfares (with lots of lanes and back alleys) that make up the popular area include Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, Bui Vien and Do Quang Dao streets.
These are where tourists can find Western-style eateries and bars, countless travel agencies, cheap guesthouses (as well as many of the so-called ‘mini-hotel’ buildings usually with six to seven floors, rarely offering an elevator), internet shops, pharmacies and souvenir-and-craft shops.
Pham Ngu Lao is not limited to only low-budget travelers. Its own unique vibe draws people from everywhere. Visitors sometime prefer to enjoy local street food or do nothing but people watching over the incredibly cheap bia hoi draught beer on the roadside as there is always something going on in Pham Ngu Lao.
Pham Ngu Lao Attractions
Pham Ngu Lao is an attraction in itself. Though this area has been developing fast over the past decade, there are still lots of charming old buildings as many families have been living there for generations. The street scene can seem a little crazy with hawkers selling just about everything from cigarettes to massage services.
Pham Ngu Lao is also close to many city landmarks as well as interesting attractions. The famous Ben Thanh Market is just a 10-minute walk and the Fine Art Museum, Reunification Palace and Phu Dong Statue are less than a kilometre away.