Top 5 eccentric Cafes in Saigon.

Address: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Five of the most insane cafes in Saigon and where to find them, featuring iguanas, houseboats, and more.

Saigon’s café scene is surely one of the most fast-paced and dynamic in the globe. You can find just about any kind of café in this town. You name it, someone’s already been there and made a café out of it. Over the years Saigon has seen pretty insane cafes come and go themed on everything from toilets to foot-nibbling koi fish.

the ( now closed ) fish cafe
The former glory of Saigon’s koi fish cafe, which has sadly changed hands and done away with its famed koi fish. (Photo credit: Le Quan via Zing)

With the fast turn-over of many cafes in the city, however, many don’t stay around for long. Much information found online about Saigon’s more exotic cafe offerings is in most cases already many years outdated, with the majority of the featured cafes having closed up shop long ago. But fear not! We at Streatery have hit the beat to find where the most bizarre and insane cafes can be found for your perusing pleasure.

1. I’m T Drink & Spa, Phu Nhuan: where every day is Halloween and the drinks come at the cost of your soul.

🕞 10:00 – 22:00 | 📍 583 Nguyễn Kiệm, Ward 9, Phú Nhuận

If creepy altars, blood-stained garments, hewn-off limbs, and menacing red lighting are what comes to mind when you imagine a good coffee spot, I’m T was created with you in mind.

the horror cafe
The stuff of nightmares. (Photo credit: Âm Ty Quán)

Being perhaps Saigon’s (or the world’s?) only horror-themed café, I’m T carries a chic graveyard aesthetic, with coffins serving as tables, murky lighting, discordant chanting, and occasionally, screams. The result is truly bizarre, and frankly, insane. Adding to the Halloween ambience are doll heads, hanging ghosts, and skull-shaped mugs. It’s out there, very out there. Patrons are advised to visit at their own mortal peril.

2. The Coffee Ship, D7: a cafe that is literally a boat floating in the river.

🕞 9:00 – 22:00  |  📍 759 Trần Xuân Soạn, Tân Hưng Ward, District 7

Bobbing gently on the busy Kenh Te canal between districts 4 and 7 sits one of the more unusually located cafes in town. The Coffee Ship (formerly La Ngon) occupies a two-floor converted barge, and makes for the perfect spot to let Saigon’s river life pass you by.

the coffee ship
Walk the plank. (Photo credit: Lý Dương)

The Coffee Ship is accessed, bizarrely, through a gap in a construction fence and a gangplank. At one point there were two separate barges operated by the cafe and floating side by side until one of them mysteriously burnt down a few years ago. Its ruined skeleton can still be seen moored in the canal beside its twin. While the coffee here is nothing special, one beverage The Coffee Ship does excel in is their blended sugarcane (nước mía) offerings, starting from 30.000. These include dragonfruit, coconut, and kumquat blends, amongst others, and they make for quite the treat. The best time to come is late afternoon to catch the sun sinking down over the canal. And in case you were wondering, yes, the boat has Wi-Fi.

3. Ice Coffee, D1: where the movie Frozen goes from fantasy to reigning life philosophy.

🕞 9:00 – 02:00 | 📍 262 Bùi Viện, Phạm Ngũ Lão Ward, District 1

Pushing the envelope of extreme cafe concepts, Ice Coffee sits at a snug ten below zero and is essentially a café-sized freezer where even the tables and chairs are sculpted from blocks of ice. It’s cold as hell frozen over in there and the sweat under your armpits will turn into tiny little stalactites within a matter of minutes, but it’s worth every second of the excruciating experience.

ice cafe in Saigon
The only cafe in town where the ice stays frozen in your drink. (Photo credit: Francis Manaloto)

Ice Coffee relocated recently and now can be found on Bui Vien, right in the heart of the backpacker quarter. Customers are provided with fur-lined eskimo jackets upon entering the ice room to keep from untimely death. The blocky ice couches and chairs inside are lined with fur also to keep your backside from turning blue and fusing to the ice beneath.

To be blunt, the cafe isn’t exactly renowned for the quality of its drinks. But, one thing it is renowned for is how quickly it will make your extremities go numb. Additionally, we want to forewarn the patrons: the drinks here are priced significantly higher than other cafes on this list (starting from 80.000), but this should come as no surprise when one factors in the staggering power bill required to keep the temperature at a steady minus ten when it’s pushing 35 outside most days. Frosty cocktails are also on offer.

4. Era Coffee, D3: an escape from the bustle and refuge for introverted souls.

🕞 10:00 – 20:00 |  📍 58 Trần Quốc Thảo, Ward 7, District 3

Sometimes the ceaseless thrum of Saigon city life can leave you feeling the need for an escape. And sometimes that escape may very well come in the form of comfortable couches, jazz, and candlelight. Tucked away on a quiet tree-lined stretch of Trần Quốc Thảo in District 3, it’s all too easy to drive right by Era Coffee and completely miss it. Part of this has to due with the unassuming exterior, partly hidden away under a deep awning, and bearing no sign. The other reason is that the cafe within is illuminated almost entirely by candlelight. It may not be quite as insane as some of the other offerings on this list, but it certainly is a unique concept.

 era coffee in saigon
Coffee by candlelight. (Photo credit: Giang Pham)

Era Coffee is one of the most ambient and romantic offerings in Saigon, and perhaps the last of its kind, having been in operation for more than 13 years. The dark and smoky interior is reminiscent of an old English pub, with the tables typically occupied by silent melancholics puffing at cigarettes and savouring the music selection of jazz and soulful French ballads. It’s a small, quiet, and intimate place hidden in the heart of hectic Saigon, and a well-kept secret for those in the know. Patrons should be aware that it can get quite smoky inside, and the use of electronic devices is limited after 6pm. Cocktails are also on offer, making it a great date spot for a romantic rendezvous in the evenings.

RELATED: Try Streatery’s pick of Saigon’s top specialty cafes HERE.

5. Cafe BaBo, Tay Ninh: part cafe, part zoo, pure madness.

🕞 6:00 – 20:00 | 📍 29 Lạc Long Quân, Ward 4, Tây Ninh

What’s better than petting an iguana over a glass of café sũa? Petting two? Why not throw in a python as well? While not strictly speaking within the city limits itself, Cafe BaBo is a true oddity and well worth the effort of seeking out. A quick look around is all it takes to see that BaBo deserves its hard-earned place in any list of insane cafes.

saigon's most insane cafes
Can I get an iguana with that? (Photo credit: Babo Reptiles Coffee)

Formerly located in Phu Nhuan district, they have moved the café and now you can find it three hours outside the bustle of Saigon in charming Tay Ninh. While the coffee itself may be nothing to write home about, Cafe BaBo is home to a staggering array of scaly critters. All manner of lizards, turtles, toads, and snakes are on display, and occasionally on your table. In addition, to animals of the non-reptile variety, including a resident hedgehog, because why not.

While the new location presents somewhat of an inconvenience for Saigon animal and reptile lovers, it does combine very nicely with a day trip to Tay Ninh, home to the equally flamboyant Cao Đài religion and Black Lady Mountain (Núi Bà Đen). Let’s put it this way, though: you don’t come to BaBo for the drinks. Here it’s all about the reptiles.

RELATED: Try Streatery’s pick of Saigon’s top specialty cafes HERE.

Do you have a coffee shop that you would like listed? COMMENT below.

Tayne Ephraim is an adventure finder and food hunter who has been living and writing in Saigon for almost a decade. He spends every free minute on a motorbike exploring new corners of Vietnam and eating along the way.

March 3, 2020

By Tayne Ephraim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Related Posts

    This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

    Error: No feed found.

    Please go to the Instagram Feed settings page to create a feed.