Sunday, April 10, 2016

Favorite Cafes in Ho Chi Minh City.

It is no secret that Ho Chi Minh City has a vibrant and lively cafe culture. Thanks to the French, who began the coffee-growing practice here in the mid-19th century, Vietnam is now the second largest producer of coffee in the world.  This fact alone makes HCMC the perfect place for me to reside because coffee is something I love even more than red wine.

Even with the unlimited list of cafes in the city, I have managed to find two very favorites.

1. Cong Caphe

 Located at 26 Ly Tu Trong, Cong Caphe is a cozy spot for a coffee, a pot of tea, or a glass of wine or beer.  Its dark green interior, walls decorated with Communist propaganda, floral print cushions, and workers adorned in Army uniforms, make the inside cozy and eclectic. Sitting on the balcony enjoying a coconut coffee, a few floors above street level is a nice escape from the motorbike-crazed street below.

I originally discovered this cafe while searching for the building where the claimed last American helicopter left Saigon during its fall in 1975.

Many of us are familiar with this picture.  For many Americans, this picture symbolizes loss, defeat, and a sense of helplessness brought on only by war.  Undoubtedly for all, it conjures feelings associated with drastic change. But today, the building is full of contemporary trends like an art gallery, a coffee shop, a cooking school, and a cute clothing boutique.
My own thoughts on America's involvement in Vietnam between 1961 and 1975 are mixed.  Having lived now in two countries which experienced war during the 20th century, I have been exposed to the helpfulness and harm that accompanies American military intervention in countries of crisis. But let's leave those heavy lessons for another day, and focus, instead, on the sweet coffee and lovely atmosphere offered at Cong Caphe.

My second favorite cafe is Dear Joe which is tucked away on a side street in District 3. It is small, quiet, brightly lit, and a bit playful. The menu's highlights include milk tea in tiny jars, Ca Phe Sua Da (iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk), and ice cream sundaes. The ice cream sundaes take on an unusual form, however. They are served looking like potted plants, the spoon: a shovel. Adorable and delicious. Both the wifi and aircon are strong making it a perfect place for an afternoon date, study session, or solo indulgence.  

With so much competition in this city, perhaps it is important for cafes to find their niche, something that makes them stand out amongst all the rest. I believe that both Cong Caphe and Dear Joe have done that very well.

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