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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cafe Vuon Kieng in Ho Chi Minh City

Cafe Vườn Kiểng is one of my favorite cafes/bars in Ho Chi Minh City, although it is kind of tedious to reach (if you come on foot, be prepared to dodge the trucks crossing the road here, Tôn Đức Thắng Street almost exactly opposite Mê Linh Square with its statue of General Trần Hưng Đạo). If you make it here alive, however, you might be tempted to stay here for the rest of the day. The cafe sits right on the banks of the Saigon River, and boasts relaxing views and plenty of refreshing breezes. On the brown waters of the river an endless procession of craft passes, usually sluggishly: there are container ships, barges carrying garbage or tonnes of soil, junks bound to the Mekong Delta or filled to the brim with diners, and ferries, many ferries, some of them designed like monsters. Opposite the cafe lies all green and tropical the Thủ Thiêm island, which survives as a bastion of rural Vietnam in the heart of the city. Remarkably, as of 2010 when I was there last there was no bridge linking Thủ Thiêm with downtown, so traffic had to queue cattlestyle before being ferried across the river. Two ferries seemed to work on the job all day long, and I never grew tired of watching them crisscrossing from jetty to jetty, loaded down with their motorbikes and cars. I just love watching people work when I am on holiday!

Cafe Vuon Kieng, on Ton Duc Thang Street, in Ho Chi Minh  City (Vietnam, 2010)

If you ever look out the window of your plane coming in to land, you will see Ho Chi Minh City is lashed by any number of languidly lolling rivers. These rivers are the lifeblood of the city's trade, but they have also curtailed its development and limited its potential. Thủ Thiêm has been isolated until now (hence its charm), but there are big plans for its future. Check out the island's official homepage for a glimpse of what could be in store. If Thủ Thiêm does indeed become a new metropolis, then Cafe Vườn Kiểng would be ideally situated as a waystation on a hot, humid day. You could park your motorbike in the lot out the front, go in and sink a cold beer on the deck.

Watching the world slide by at Cafe Vuon Kieng, on Saigon River (Vietnam, 2010)

Cafe Vườn Kiểng: 10B Tôn Đức Thắng St, Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Phone: (08) 290 9410.

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