24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier

Natalia Martínez went on a hunt for cafés that open the entire night and offer a place to hang out until sunrise. Photos by Francis Xavier

 

At the stroke of midnight the mission started. We were about to become nocturnal souls in search of cafés that open all night long, gathering all kinds of people and stories. It turns out that Ho Chi Minh City — another of those big metropolises that never sleeps — offers a wide list of cafés that remain open 24 hours to cover every customer’s need.

 

There are many kinds of customers that frequent these spots late at night. From the classic group of friends that gathers around midnight with their computers to play online games — using smartphones, tablets and computers at the same time without taking an eye off their screens — to the ones that seek a quiet place as a retreat to get some work done. You can also find other types of clients that would rather hang out with some blended juices instead of clubbing.

 

Most of these cafés are gathered around District 1 and District 3. Ahead of us there were a few hours and drinks to experience the other side of the night.

 


24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier  

The March

51 Tran Quang Dieu, Q3

 

Drinks: 3.5 stars

Decor: Simple

Ambience: Good and relaxed

Reasons to go: To hang out and play video games

The far side of the canal from District 3, Phu Nhuan, was set as the beginning of the tour. The March is an average, classic Vietnamese café that is modestly decorated with some tiny tables and chairs. Here crowds of men in their 20s meet to play computer games and get a buzz from tra da and cigarettes. No panic, in case you didn’t bring your A-game or any company with you, at the entrance, sits an ancient video console so you can play arcade games until the sun rises. The first drinks of our night were a very average ca phe sua da (VND24,000) and a peach ice tea (VND34,000) which met our expectations. Meanwhile, we got involved with some serious arcade action and over numerous battles — playing Street Fighter — delayed our next stop.

 


24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier  

CI5 Café

243 Le Van Sy, Q3

 

Drinks: 5 stars

Decor: A nice mix resulting from retro and hipster tools

Ambience: A very homey place

Reasons to go: To work or chill

 

A quiet and adorable place, perfect if you are looking for somewhere to spend the night finishing stuff that you have left undone. There is plenty of room — stuffed with retro-hip decorations — where you can get comfortable; the upstairs floor has a terrace from where you can look out at the night. CI5 Café has a coffee machine which makes an excellent latte for VND32,000.

 


24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier  

G Café

65 Ho Xuan Huong, Q3

 

Drinks: 3 stars

Decor: Rustic

Ambience: Ok

Reasons to go: To hang out

 

G Café follows the same style as the March. They have a few spots around the city, although the one we chose at 65 Ho Xuan Huong was not very inviting. This outside café is almost entirely made of wood and occupies the path with its miniature sets of stools and tables. In G Café you will probably share the space with teenagers playing with their computers and watching YouTube videos. If you are not into these two pastimes, you still have the opportunity for some people watching if it's not too late in the evening. The drinks here won’t kill you — the mosquitoes may — though they might disappoint you as the vanilla blend (VND39,000) did me.

24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier


24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier 

Step Up

32 Pham Hong Thai, Q1

 

Drinks: 3 stars

Decor: Simple

Ambience: Busy and good

Reasons to go: To meet your buddies at late hours

 

This is just another option for people to hang out when night falls. Its big terrace is an attraction, as is its rooftop, but sadly the selection and quality of the drinks is quite poor. My choice here was a wild berry soda for VND40,000, which I drank while one of the waitresses was having a cheeky nap on one of the tables, making me feel very jealous since it was already 3am.

 


24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier

Heritage Café

10 Pasteur, Q1

 

Drinks: 5 stars

Decor: Vintage, with an excellent taste

Ambience: Cosy

Reasons to go: To indulge in style and play with English bulldogs

 

Pasteur Street hosts a few known cafés like The Factory Cafe and Thuc where night owls hang out sitting on the tiny toddler chairs spread out on the path. But to be fair, nothing beats the Heritage Café. This remarkable spot is located at the beginning of this busy road. Behind a half-hipster, half-vintage-looking facade, it hides a museum of beautiful gems hanging from its wall; from vinyls, to old school bicycles, with room for some shelves packed with vintage suitcases and big beautiful portraits of work by the French photographer Réhahn.

 

One of its signature drinks is the egg coffee, Hanoi-style (VND55,000), so that was the chosen one for this stop. It had a thick layer of the fluffy mix of egg yolk and sweetened milk, which covered an intense Robusta coffee with a powerful smoky aroma.

24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier 


24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier  

Mr. 8

2 Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q1

 

Drinks: 3 stars

Decor: simple

Ambience: Solitary, if not depressing

Reasons to go: To find some peace of mind

 

The corner location is excellent, but the quality location is quickly undermined by the disappointment of the café experience itself. After entering the café we realized how tiny it was, and one of the tables on the ground floor was occupied by a girl dressed in school uniform, who had fallen into a deep sleep. We ordered a lychee ice tea (VND55,000) and headed upstairs followed by a strange smell that I never managed to pinpoint. And as it was meant to be, we sat by the big window, drank the tea and watched the night.

 


24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier 

Unclosed Café

85 Ho Tung Mau, Q1

 

Drinks: 4 stars

Decor: Simple yet nice

Ambience: Relaxed

Reasons to go: To work or chill

 

And the tour came to its end, the last stop being Unclosed Café, where we shared the room with a group of Vietnamese girls that were sleeping on the couches, killing time and waiting for their bus back to the Mekong Delta. To call it a night, I ordered a strawberry yoghurt (VND49,000), something smooth before going to bed and getting some sleep. Once we heard the roosters starting to crow we knew it was time to go home.

24 Hour Cafe. Photo by Francis Xavier

Natalia Martinez

Natalia Martínez is a Spanish girl who moved to Vietnam after graduating in journalism. Having worked for Spain's premier radio station, she is now a freelance journalist and teaches English and Spanish in Ho Chi Minh City. Despite being so busy, she still finds time to share silly stories on her blog desdevietngon.wordpress.com and eat ridiculous amounts of cheese.

Website: https://desdevietngon.wordpress.com/

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