The Common Room Project is in District 5 which means the place is far from the known Pham Ngu Lao. I arrived in the city late afternoon from Cu Chi Tunnels so I decided to check the busy street. The walk started from Park 23/9 where the buses converge. At one corner, I found the entwining traffic of Saigon so mesmerizing. Since it was still early, I decided to spend an hour or 2 just chilling in some cafes in Ho Chi Minh City.
But before that, my walk continued until I reached Pham Ngu Lao and headed towards the deeper side of the road. Backpacker hostels, bars, restaurants, and tour agencies are ubiquitous in the area. Alleys are noisy due to the bustling crowd and vehicles. I was grateful to pick a hostel away from District 1. Though not within the Saigon backpacker scene, it was practical to avoid the setting.
SNOB COFFEE, 147A Trần Hưng Đạo, Cầu Ông Lãnh, Quận 1
After some left and right turn, and few more blocks, I already surrendered and accepted defeat. I was lost in the chaotic district of Ho Chi Minh City. Thanks to Google maps, I was able to recover and found myself inside a coffee shop with its front-store raided by several motorbikes.
SNOB Coffee is a 2-floor coffee shop in the corner of Tran Hung Dao and De Tham. The place is perfect for people who intend to move away from the buzzing vehicles. In fact, during my visit, several tables were occupied by students busy skimming on some journals and books.
The space on the ground floor is not that big and has around 3-4 rounded tables and a long table. Gallery lighting fixtures used were excellent in producing a warm vibe that is nice for a lazy early evening. Near the door on the side of Tran Hung Dao is their chic counter listing all their offerings.
SNOB Coffee drinks are available on four versions: classic, espresso, ice blended, and tea beverages. You can get 12oz drinks as cheap as 35000VND (1.5USD) or avail the famous Vietnamese Iced Coffee with condensed milk at 30000VND (1.3USD). Shaved ice, croissant, cakes, and other pastries are also up for grabs. Got a cup of iced mocha for my drink.
LED gallery lights continue up to the second floor. More tables and chairs to lounge and more space to offer. The bricked wall adds a certain texture to the setting. I settled in one of the tables near the floor-to-ceiling window and pulled out my laptop to check on my website. Free WiFi is available so I took the opportunity to update my social media. When I totally consumed my blended beverage and hunger crept in, I left the coffee shop.
THE LOFT CAFÉ, 26 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1
Days before my Southeast Asia trip, I accidentally watched a vlog from Erwan Heusaff’s Youtube channel. The video presents his overnight visit in Saigon where he discovered must-try places to eat in the city. One of the recommended coffee shops to try the fascinating Vietnamese coffee on an upscale version is The Loft Cafe.
Exploring city attractions by foot took me about 4 hours and I needed a reward. I remembered the coffee shop and started Googling for its address. When I arrived at the scene, I saw the cafe’s logo but I couldn’t find its entrance. It’s on the other side of the junction, passing a short-hallway-cum-art-gallery full of paintings and drawings.
I continued to the spiral staircase and looked for any sign of the café. Few more rounds and the door of the restaurant appeared at the end of a corridor. Several tables were occupied given that it was a Tuesday at around 4 in the afternoon. The Loft Café has a warm mood and tables and chairs are not uniform for all areas of the café. Distinctive materials such as bird cages were used for lighting fixtures and a large casted clock in one of the windows. There’s also an al fresco area for groups who don’t mind the buzzing noise of Saigon streets.
The café is more than a coffee shop with the availabilities of pizzas, burgers, salad choices, pasta, all-day breakfast, and Viet corner in addition to the sandwiches and desserts. Beverages include coffee, tea, juices, fraps, smoothies and lassies, and mocktails, cocktails, beers, and wines.
I ordered a Vietnamese coffee over ice and a New York Cheesecake for only 85000VND or about 4USD. The Vietnamese coffee was served in a phin (French press) while the condensed milk, which serves as a sweetener, in a tall glass full of ice. Free Wifi is also available at The Loft Cafe if you need one to connect to the internet.
With the thriving coffee culture in Ho Chi Minh City, it was nice to find these restaurants. Places that apart from serving irresistible coffee, also offers ambiance shifted from the usual street scene. This allows tourists to observe and meet a different social class in Vietnam. Aside from these places, I also tried the Vietnamese coffee on one of the cheap stalls along the street. And one thing is for sure, Vietnamese coffee (yes, the one with condensed) is consistent from the side-street to the fancy cafes.