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Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Wonderful Cafe World




Saigon is said to be the best place in Vietnam for enjoying coffee because of the diverse styles of its cafes

People in Saigon suggest going to a cafe by asking other people, “Free for a coffee?” They may go to a cafe for any reason, even just to sit down to relax. Sitting in a cafe has long been a habit of Saigonese.
Going around the downtown streets, you can see a wide range of cafes. Lovers of stylishness and business people like high-class, chic cafes where they can sit comfortably in sofas to be served with refreshments and talk in a private, quiet space. Young entrepreneurs and office workers choose more youthful cafes of certain grades like Highland and Terrace as a place to discuss their work, or just meet friends and sweethearts.

In Saigon, you can see an exceptional assortment of cafes on Han Thuyen Street, District 1: a “mobile cafe” is opposite to one of the most luxurious cafes in the city. This mobile cafe is an old car with more than 15 seats, and it serves coffee and other refreshments. Compared with the opposite luxury cafe with sofas, the mobile cafe charges a price one-tenth lower. Don’t think that it only serves average people. Customers can sit thereabouts in the park and employees bring drinks directly to them. In the morning, especially of Saturdays and Sundays, many kinds of people — men and women, young and old, cyclists and drivers — gather here and sit on the cement edging of Ba Muoi Thang Tu Park to enjoy a glass of coffee and talk. This area is now becoming a rendezvous for many people. Groups of collectors of old scooters, motorbikes and bicycles gather here to look at each other prized possessions.
Many young people flock to big, noisy, bustling cafes such as Chot Nho, Sao, Window and MTV because they want to enjoy rock and rap music as well as watch at each other. Such cafes have street fronts.

Saigon also has many cafes in alleys. Go along Pham Ngoc Thach Street in districts 1 and 3 and enjoy the shady trees on both sides. You can stop in any of the short and empty alleys where there are small cafes and beverage hand-carts. These places, with their small tables and chairs, have long been rendezvous of painters, architects and other arty types. The ideas flow while customers have a coffee.
Apart from people who are fond of having coffee with their feet on the ground, there are people who like to visit cafes at high altitudes. The Panorama cafe on the 33rd floor of the Saigon Trade Center is a favorite spot. Taking a cup of coffee, talking with friends and seeing the city’s night view from the top floor of Saigon’s highest building is an ideal pastime.
Some people like quiet places but many others like the noisiness of cafes. For this reason, many kinds of cafes to meet different kinds of requirements have come into being. Modernity and convenience are at cyber cafes; liveliness goes with cafes with live music; a love for nature is reflected at cafes with yards, trees, aquariums and waterfalls; privacy goes with air-conditioned cafes.

One strange cafe is Thuy Truc Cafe on Bui Thi Xuan Street, Tan Binh District. This cafe opens during the morning, closes by noon and opens again at 2 p.m. Customers who go there with a motorbike must walk it into the cafe.
It has been found that only 50% of customers at most cafes actually drink coffee and the rest go for various reasons, the simplest of which is to take a seat to relax. Drinking coffee and sitting at cafes are an essential part of the life of Saigonese. Whereas Saigonese use clothes and cars to show their stylishness and social positions, going to a cafe seems to be part of the general culture and a pastime of each individual.