An oasis in bustling Saigon

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  The mezzanine at the relaxing Yen Café in Ho Chi Minh City

Yen Café is located in an old French colonial villa on Pham Dinh Toai, a small quiet street in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.

In Vietnamese "yen" means peaceful and tranquil. True to its name, this place reminds me of an undisturbed oasis or the refuge of a house in the mountains.

After passing through the gate, I entered a small terrace area with different styles of windows climbing the walls all the way up to the roof. A small path took me to a wooden staircase leading to the café. Passing through the café seemed to cleanse my mind of thoughts and I was ready for a relaxing time.

There are sofas around simple tables and areas with cushions on the floor (similar to the Japanese style). On the ground floor is a stage where young singers from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi perform almost every night. Some famous singers like Le Cat Trong Ly and Thai Trinh cut their singing teeth here.

We chose a table on the mezzanine with a view of the stage. It was a very simple but nice place and all around us was the simple brown of wooden walls, wooden floors, and cushion covers. Sunlight from a skylight illuminated the café naturally. And thanks to the gieng troi, a large tree grew near the stage and smaller trees were scattered about on the tables.

I found it easy to relax and feel connected in this small, cozy place. People seemed to exchange friendly smiles, more than in other big cafes in town.

From there we could also see some pretty decorations like ants made of bamboo crawling up the wall. Above them were white windows on the wall which looked as if someone would open them and say hello to us.

There were two lovely cats (black and snow white) sitting on the tables. They were very friendly, even allowing guests to pick them up and pet them. They occasionally condescended to join guests at their tables. Suddenly the white cat came to our table and my friend fed it bits of her leftover sandwich.

YEN CAFÉ

9A Pham Dinh Toai Street,
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Yen Café has an interesting menu of mixed drinks, juices and smoothies, tea and coffee, mixed vitamin C fruit drinks, yogurt and ice cream, and cocktails, all at reasonable prices (VND30,000 to VND80,000). It has a happy hour until 6pm when most of the drinks are a little cheaper. During music shows, the entrance ticket includes one drink (except from the cocktail menu).

The tea and mixed drinks are the highlights of the place. There are local teas such as lemongrass (VND40,000 before 6 p.m.-VND55,000 after 6 p.m.), hot ginger tea (VND30,000-VND45,000) and fruit tea with passion fruit (VND40,000-VND55,000).

On the mixed drink menu are some unusual ones like tropical matcha lassi (banana, condensed milk, matcha powder, yoghurt-VND48,000/VND58,000), passionate autumn (banana, rum, coffee or cacao-VND48,000/VND58,000), and orange summer (orange and carrot-VND48,000/VND58,000).

The café has a fast food menu with dishes such as fried rice with beef or chicken (VND45,000), sweet onion chicken sandwich (VND42,000), beef steak with fried egg and French fries (VND70,000) and sunny-side up egg with bread (VND35,000).

The shop also sells boxes made of water grass and cute wooden dolls for VND40,000 to VND75,000.

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