Requirements for a good writing coffee shop:1. Great coffee. 2. A cozy atmosphere. Or maybe a fresh one? The kind of relaxing vibe where I don’t feel stressed or hurried. 3. Pretty things for my wandering mind. 4. Less than five minutes from home.
These entirely subjective criteria, and an even less objective evaluation leads me to a little list: My top three (ish) writing cafes in Ho Chi Minh City (in no particular order and verified by no-one).
1. La Rotonde (77B Ham Nghi, 2nd Floor, D1) A deliciously light and bright space that overlooks a busy intersection and street market. The Vietnamese coffee is smooth and silky, there is an excellent lunch buffet every day, and a special vegan option for those with eating requirements.
2. 14 Thon That Dam, D1 This place is wonderfully different. Faded old Saigon meets the exuberance of young Ho Chi Minh City. A French colonial structure opposite the imposing National Bank, you enter through a grubby alley stuffed with motorbikes and climb a stairwell straight out of an Irvine Welsh novel. Don’t be put off: each floor holds little jewels of hope and modernity.
The first cafe you come to is Banksy’s. An ode to the British graffiti artist, decorated with intricate tiling and bold typography, it’s a design-lover’s dream. The americanos are tasty, there are plenty of art and design books for you to peruse and you can often watch young couples having their wedding photos taken here.
Alternatively, you can turn left in front of Banksy’s and follow the chalkboard pointing to Things. Cross a walkway between buildings and enter through a flapping yellow shutter. Adorably covered in Charlie Chaplin portraits and wall murals. It’s so relaxed, one of the seating areas is a double bed. This is a cafe to lounge in as long as you wish. I cannot vouch for the coffee, but it’s a beautiful place for your mind to drift.
Up one floor is Dan Tran’s vintage shop. Find unique clothes, bags and shoes in this delightful space and get the added bonus of saying, ‘Where did I get this? A little retro shop in Saigon, dahling’ every time you wear your purchase out.
Across the landing is the Other Person Cafe. A maid cafe where staff cosplay manga characters and frilly maids with pink hair. They address you as master/mistress. Maid cafes are wildly popular in Japan, and starting to catch on here in Vietnam. If you’ve never been to one, imagine walking into a cartoon where you take coffee in a giant cat bus, or sit at a table that’s built like an enormous cake. Weird and dissociating? Yes. But something you should definitely try.
Make it to the top of the building, and Mockingbird rewards you with a breezy balcony and views of the water
3. Velo de Piste Cafe (10 Pasteur, D1) You can’t miss the bicycles hanging outside and the huge moustaches gratified on the walls around. Open 24 hours for those in constant need of mountain biking magazines. Go after dark and be charmed by the fairy lights and friendly service. Try the passion fruit juice for instant refreshment.