Two cafes that are perfect for relaxing
A suburb popular with expats in Ho Chi Minh City, District 2 is a perfect blend of modern lifestyle, with condominiums and international supermarkets, and ‘hidden charms’ including quaint coffee shops. I took a trip down to District 2 one day and after two hours of struggling with a head- scratching one way roading network, found my two favorite places.
Coffee by the Riverside
The Saigonese loves things that are ‘by the side’ like roadside eateries, selling goods by the side of the bridge, and the all-time favorite riverside cafés. This is a no frills place with just a few long rows of reclining plastic chairs with low tables. The history of this simple place traces back 10 years ago when District 2 was, according to Thi, the café’s owner, still a dark and dangerous place. Back then, his parents operated the café indoors with just their neighbors as customers but six years ago a loyal customer contributed money and muscle to revamp the riverside area. With the gentrification of An Phu, he was able to take his business outdoors. I ask Thi, whose background is in journalism, why he quit writing to do this. “It’s a family business,” he replies simply.
B&A Café serves coffee, soft drinks, ice cream and fruit juices and now welcomes a variety of customers ranging from youngsters who come in groups, families with kids and couples who want to soak up the romantic al fresco setting in the evenings.
The breeze from the Saigon River blows away the heat of a summer day. It is still early in the evening and just a few old men are playing chess. Watching this brings me an overwhelming sense of peace. After all, this place is hidden from city life and providing its customers with the necessary tranquility to indulge in deep thinking or revive the mind.
Road No. 19, D2 (off Tran Nao Street)
Coffee in the Garden
“Why didn’t you name the place 4G to be in sync with technology?” was the first question I ask the owner. He bursts into laughter. Hieu says 3G actually stands for three good things: good service, good food and drink and a good environment.
This spacious café is divided into three areas and shaded by large trees. It even has a small pond with a mini bridge that links the parking space to one of the three seating areas. Kids enjoy standing on the bridge and watching the fish swim, or playing hide-and- seek among the big trees.
Hieu purposely didn’t install any air conditioning units as he wanted customers to enjoy the garden to its fullest. 3G serves both food and drink but go there for dinner when he’s inside the kitchen doing the cooking himself.
The drink menu isn’t fancy, just the usual coffees, ice creams, juices, and soft drinks. I ordered an iced salted plum juice which turned out to be pretty good choice.
25A, Road No. 3, D2
Images by Quinn Ryan Mattingly