Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon and the Capital of South Vietnam before the country unified, is now the commercial hub of the country and its biggest city. It is one of the regular entry points for overseas visitors beginning a holiday in Vietnam, and is certainly included in almost all Vietnam travel packages. It is a modern city with huge skyscrapers but next door there may still be street vendors selling food to passers-by. Try some because busy vendors will be selling the freshest food around.
It is a busy city and the traffic is hectic. It is nice to escape to relax, and one excellent way to do it is by going into one of the city’s cafes selling coffee. You can sit on the first floor in nice surroundings and look down on the traffic and general activity below. It is not necessarily a well-known fact but Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil. Coffee is grown in the highland regions of Vietnam and given that the French were once the country’s colonial masters, it is not surprising that coffee is a popular drink in towns and cities. Coffee is an export crop but a great deal is drunk by the people as well.
There are many places to drink coffee; the terrace of L’Usine overlooking the opera house takes France as its inspiration. A popular choice is ca phe sua da which translated means “coffee, milk, ice”.The coffee is strongwith very sweet condensed milk, the liquid then poured over ice in a glass.
Vietnam has an equivalent to Starbuck’s; Trung Nguyen Coffee is a chain across the city with a menu covering five pages. The surroundings are chic with sofas and retro branding in the company colours, orange and brown. Their cafes attract all types of people, the young, businessmen and tourists enjoying a Vietnam tour package. Each coffee has a name, things like“Thought” or “Success”, “Creation” and “Discover.” There are even claims that some of the coffee drinks on the menu have medicinal or health properties though you should not enquire about how many calories per cup are involved.
Make no mistake about it however, ca phe sua is also sold by street vendors where you can sit at street level on a plastic stool if you want that; there are plenty who do. If you want to relax with your coffee, perhaps with a plate of biscuits and cakes, the street is not for you but if you want to absorb yourself in daily life and enjoy the environment, try the street and likely meet some locals.
Ho Chi Minh City may be your introduction to Vietnam or the last place you visit before the end of your Vietnam holiday. Either way, enjoy the combination of 21st Century and tradition, side by side. Your memories and the photographs you take will be the envy of friends and family at home.