Saigon Cafe Culture – The Best In The World
You probably aren’t expecting me to say this, given that I’ve done my fair share of traveling around Europe, but Ho Chi Minh City, by far, has the best café culture I’ve ever seen.
There are cafes everywhere. They all have free wifi and most restaurants do as well. As a nomad with a need to be connected, Ho Chi Minh City was an extremely convenient place to be.
The internet speed there was crazy, crazy fast. I’d go to some nondescript, small cafes and they’d have 50Mbps up and down. Generally, my “need for speed” is not very high. But while in Ho Chi Minh City I decided to switch from Vimeo to Youtube. I was able to upload all my videos, gigabytes and gigabytes worth, to Youtube without much hassle at all thanks to the lightning fast speeds.
The cafes also have no problem if you want to spend a lot of time there. You can spend hours at a table reading or working despite ordering just one drink (and they’ll often keep you topped up on water or iced tea too). I tried to order something every 90 minutes or so to be fair – and also because the drinks were so good and relatively cheap.
When you sit down at the café, they always start you off with ice water or iced tea and usually make sure you stay topped up throughout your stay. The iced tea is green tea. I couldn’t sleep well my first few nights in Vietnam, partly because I still felt a bit sick from Singapore and partly because it was so hot. But I think the biggest obstacle to getting a good night’s sleep was all the caffeine I was consuming due to the iced tea! It took a couple days to realize drinking the iced tea at night wasn’t a good idea for me.
The cafes here all serve Vietnamese coffee. Coffee here is locally grown and roasted and served with ice, sugar, and condensed milk on ice. It’s a wonderful antidote to the heat and tastes great. You can also get it without milk, which I did due to my lactose intolerance. But with condensed milk it tastes great.
They all serve blended fruit drinks (smoothies, for example), fruit juices (tropical fruit), and blended coffee drinks (frappacinos). Some have pastries and other sweets, but all have a few Vietnamese food options in case you are hungry.
The menus seem endless, with amazing option after amazing option available.
The cafes themselves can also be an attraction in itself. One of the benefits of couchsurfing is staying with locals who know their city. My host, Long, kept telling me “Tonight I’ll take you to a beautiful café.”
We’d always arrive, sometimes after driving down back alleys for minutes and minutes seemingly getting farther and farther from civilization.. yet he never disappointed. All the cafes were beautiful. Sometimes the farther we got from civilization the nicer the cafes became.
Below are a few pictures from one such cafe.
Unfortunately, the idea to do a post about the cafes here came to me on my last day in Ho Chi Minh City, but below are some pictures from a café where I had lunch. I don’t even know how to describe the interior design. There’s a toilet you can sit on, one doorway is like a British phone booth, etc. Just a cool design.
And I guess maybe that’s one of the things that make the cafes in Ho Chi Minh City so inviting and appealing. They often felt like you were in relaxing in someone’s living room. And, as a nomad, what a nice feeling that was!