A corner of the first floor of Tibetan Coffee
Tucked away in a quiet alley in the middle of Saigon, Tibetan Coffee stands aloof from the noisy and crowded spaces around it.
As its name suggests, the coffee shop is modeled on the culture of Tibet as well as a little of its neighbors, Nepal and India, the home of Buddhism.
Tibetan Coffee looks small from outside and has some colorful drawings on its red wooden door that pique one's curiosity. True to the café's Tibetan nature, the metal door handle is the shape of somebody deep in meditation with wings on her back and a snake on her head.
To add a touch of mystery, the front door stays closed except when somebody is passing through the doorway, rather than being open all the time and flanked by the usual serving staff sporting smiles and uttering words of welcome.
So visitors must open the door themselves and not stand on ceremony.
Immediately inside the front door is a thin cloth curtain, decorated in the same colorful Asian style as the door, that is parted to reveal a serene, almost spiritual retreat from the world outside.
A reddish-yellowish light fills the interior, frankincense wafts through the room, and Tibetan chants add a suitable melodious touch. Unsurprisingly, the usual chant is the Sanskrit mantra om mani padme hum, which most scholars translate as "jewel in the lotus", that being the sacred flower of Buddhism.
The furniture on the first floor is all carved wooden tables and chairs imported from Tibet, likewise the wooden Buddha statue, and there are altars of the Buddha and the Dalai Lama along with Tibetan-style ceramic pots of various shades.
Small prayer flags in blue, yellow, green, orange and white festoon the ceiling, and the walls are decorated with pictures of Tibetan monks and the people of the Himalayan nation.
In one corner are displayed for purchase many kinds of incense sticks for assorted religious purposes, hand-made strings of beads, and purifying perfume extracted from plants that grow at the foot of Tibet's tall peaks.
The second floor, which is separated into two spaces by the stairs, is brighter than the first owing to the large glass window at one end. At the top of the stairs sits a dried bundle of straw next to an old table with an old electric fan and ancient radio on it.
On one side of the second floor, where guests are required to remove their shoes, there are wicker chairs with no legs, making people feel like they are sitting on the floor, and low tables to match. Colorful pillows of various shapes and sizes adorn every seat.
A large rug covers the floor, and the walls are painted orange, which is declared to be the color of intelligence in Buddhist philosophy.
Moving along to the nub of the matter, Tibetan Coffee serve
vegetarian and non-vegetarian food along with more than 70 kinds of beverage. These include Tibetan tea (natch) and smoothies with names like Dream Catch-up, Heart's Guardian, Escape and Good Daughter-in-Law.
28/11A Ton That Tung Street, District 1,Ho Chi Minh City
The third floor of Tibetan Coffee is made for meditation and repose. The ambience is so spiritual that none dares make a sound for fear of breaking the spell.
"This place is one of the very few quiet coffee shops I have found in the city," said a young girl who was reading a book. "It is definitely a place where you can sit for hours, find yourself and think deeply."
Someday in Saigon, if you're feeling down or overwhelmed by the noise, the hurry, the heat, the traffic and the what-have-you of metropolitan life, then Tibetan Coffee is the place for you.
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