Café Bet

No other coffee shops could spark such enthusiasm like Café Bet, a group of undefined small coffee stalls in the park on Han Thuyen in District 1. My workmates shrieked with excitement when I asked, “Is Bet still going?” Just a few minutes later, passionate conversations sparked up about best spots to sit — or even more controversial topics, like what to do when the authorities visit.

That’s enough to make me visit Bet again. On a mild Saturday morning, I walked down beautiful-in-a-colonial-way Han Thuyen to the park. I went early, expecting the place would be packed by the time I arrived. On the contrary, it was quite empty. I jumped into the centre of the activity and found a spot to sit down, ready to begin my quest.

Opposite me, happily chatting away, was a group of young people, whom I reckoned were students. I gingerly approached the group and they welcomed me with shy smiles. One guy in the group had brought a guitar, and when I asked him how he would feel playing it in public, he smiled confidently. “I’ve had experience playing in school gigs before, so I’m not shy.”


A Local Getaway


Walking on, a group of seven or eight women in bright, neon-coloured shirts caught my attention. They were carrying baskets of food and chirping with pleasure.


With the sweetest smile on my face, I approached them. When I told them I’d like to speak with them, the boldest woman in the group — dressed demonstratively in a neon-yellow bodycon skirt — laughed freely. Soon they all joined in. For them, this coffee place is a convenient getaway from work, stress, boyfriends and husbands, right in the heart of Saigon.


My most interesting conversation was, surprisingly, with two young guys who had been sitting next to me for a while. Dressed in casual shirts and shorts, they looked a bit sleepy. One told me, “I really like this spot. It’s a good open place with breeze to talk to friends. I hate going to crowded coffee shops where they play terrible music.”


When asked if he would venture out here on his own, he said “Of course not. It’s for meeting friends. On my own I’d just stay home and sleep.”


His answer is spot-on about why this coffee shop is so popular amongst Saigon citizens. It’s open, friendly, breezy and welcoming of anyone who wants to sit and relax in the rare green spaces of this city. — Quynh Nguyen


The loose confederation of street stalls that make up Café Bet can be found in April 30th Park — north of Reunification Palace in District 1 — on the Han Thuyen side

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