Eat & Drink

The Best And Weirdest Cafes In Ho Chi Minh City

Are reptile cafes the new cat cafes?

If there’s a legacy left by the French colonisation of Vietnam, it would have to be the cafe culture.

Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon, as it’s still referred to by the locals) is experiencing rapid growth in the number of unique and “off the radar” cafes that aren’t normally obvious from a simple street view. These range from cafes inside crumbling buildings that you normally wouldn’t think twice about entering, to cat and dog-themed cafes that allow you to cuddle a pet while sipping on a your iced coffee.

Here are a five of the best spots, not just for drinking coffee, but for taking a breather (or indulging in a little free wi-fi).


#1 The Other Person Cafe

Address: Level 2, 14 Ton That Đam, District 1

The Other Cafe 2

Modelled off the Japanese-style anime cafes, The Other Person Cafe feels as though you’ve stepped into a miniature doll’s house, complete with a piano next to a stage shaped like a cake. As you settle in, the resident cats will stride over and keep you company, using your lap as a bed.

If you prefer something more intimate then head up the ladder through a short tunnel lined with artificial vines and you’ll come out to a room shaped like a giant cat. Uh-huh. A big cat room. The service is great, with waitresses dressed in Alice In Wonderland-style costumes.

Tip: If you’re a cat person, then sit by the window– they prefer the warmth there.


#2 Babo Cafe

Address: Number 9 Apartment 3, Hoa Phuong Street, Phu Nhuan District

Babo Cafe

Tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood street is Babo Cafe – a space inhabited with cold blooded creatures of the reptilian kind. It’s not difficult to miss Babo Cafe, with its lengthy fish tank taking up the entrance of the building, but your visit could go two ways – it could excite you or it could freak you out.

There are plenty of reptilian friends waiting in their heated perspex boxes until requested by customers – iguanas, bearded dragons and pythons to name a few. Customers are free to pet and feed these brightly coloured, domesticated reptiles. If scales aren’t your thing, there are also cute rabbits to gush over.

Tip: Make sure you wash your hands properly after handling the reptiles. You might grow scales.


#3 Ken’s House

Address: 231 Pham Van Hai, Ward 5, Tan Binh District

Image: Ken’s House / Facebook

Not a cat (or lizard) person? We got you, boo. Ken’s House, aka Ken’s House – Cafe Chó Alaska, is a cafe populated with loving dogs. Where cats laze about, more or less indifferent to cafe visitors, these pups are more than willing to share the love with you.

All dogs are well-groomed and behaved. While the cafe’s true love is the Alaskan malamute (with one on the logo) – there are several other breeds in residence including a dalmatian. They’re all good doggos eager to please.

Coffee is the house specialty but they also have a good range of juices and teas, served with a side of snuggles.

Tip: Doggos always make for fire Instagram content so make some space on your feed.


#4 Workshop

Address: 27 Ngo Duc Ke, District 1

Workshop

Like most of the cool cafes in Saigon, to get to Workshop you’re required to hike up an old, unassuming worn out spiral staircase. The cafe is located on the top floor and it resembles an inner city warehouse conversion, just with the lingering scent of coffee that’s roasted on site.

Workshop is located close to a growing number of high-rise office towers, so don’t be surprised if you’re sipping your latte next to a power meeting. But the best seats are by the windows where you can watch the traffic zoom by the tree-lined Dong Khoi street below.

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They don’t serve Vietnamese iced coffee here as it’s only for “serious” coffee drinkers. If you prefer your coffee brewed a particular way, there there are a number of brewing techniques to ask for, from Siphon to Aeropress and Chemex.

Tip: The service may be slow but the coffee is worth the wait, so allow plenty of time.


#5 Ailu Cafe

Address: 284 Nguyen Trong Tuyen, Phu Nhuan District

Ailucat Cafe 1

Named after the Egyptian cat goddess, Ailu Cafe is one of the few places where you’ll actually be able to tear yourself from your smartphone, but for good cause – it’ll probably be to chase around one of the 15 or so cats that seem to own this space. Upstairs in the main room you can sit on the floor around a tree-like cubby house structure where the cats are free to climb and doze.

It doesn’t take long to become familiar with the cat’s individual personalities – half of them are friendly and prefer the company of humans, whereas the others prefer to strut around without giving you a thought in the world.

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(All images: Jimmy Dau)