Vietnam's southern hub fails to clear traffic in tourist area

By Hoang Viet - N.Tran Tam, Thanh Nien News

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Chaotic traffic in Ho Chi Minh City's backpack area
The chaotic traffic in Ho Chi Minh City's backpackers' area has continued unhindered by nebulous government efforts to control it.
The quarter, which has unofficially expanded from three main streets Bui Vien, De Tham, and Pham Ngu Lao to include Cong Quynh and Do Quang Dau, is often full of buses and cars that pick up and drop-off tourists, Thanh Nien reporters observed.
Taxi drivers and xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers arguing over customers is a common scene.
In the meantime, sidewalks are taken up by motorbikes and street-side shops, leaving no walking space for tourists.
Billy Murti, a Canadian tourist who has traveled through the Indochina, told Thanh Nien that next time when he returns to the city, he will not rent a room in the quarter anymore.
He said he does not want to walk in the middle of a chaotic stream of motorbikes, taxis and buses again.
In 2012, the city’s Department of Transport banned cars from parking along Pham Ngu Lao Street from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
However, the ban later faced objections from the HCMC Tourism Association, which said those were the times when tourists left their hotels for tours in the morning and returned to hotels in the afternoon and thus vehicles needed to be able to park there to pick them up and drop them off.
So, last April the department restricted the ban to part of Pham Ngu Lao Street, from only 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The department once claimed that it would collaborate with related agencies to draft a solution to expand the street, but so far there have been no updates on the plan.
Meanwhile, La Quoc Khanh, vice director of the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said three years ago his organization and the HCMC University of Economics drafted a project to zone the backpackers' area into a pedestrian zone
Since it was reviewed and passed by a panel, the project has been pending the approval of the Department of Science and Technology, he said.
Official figures showed that Pham Ngu Lao Ward now boasts over 1,000 hospitality businesses, including 208 hotels and guesthouses and 103 travel companies.

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