Squashed between a Japanese restaurant and a MoneyGram bureau and opposite the Bong Sen Hotel at the river end of Hai Ba Trung street in District 1 is a piddly little alleyway. Pop your snout up this slimline passage and more often than not you’ll find it chokka with Mai Linh taxi company drivers at the end of their shift. Mai Linh’s main office is a hop and a buttscratch away up the road. The alleyway is easy to miss, and I’ll be honest with you, your life isn’t gonna
change if you do miss it. This is just one example of the many street side
beverage outlets in Saigon.
The manageress/waitress and chef all rolled into one fortysomething bundle tells me she has been quenching the Saigonese thirst from this spot for well over ten years. It’s not chic, but it’s quiet and handy for the centre of town. Pull up a dwarf friendly plastic stool and grab a cafe sua da (iced coffee), sinh to (fruit shake), tra da (iced tea), dua tuoi (coconut) or a canned drink. All cost a shade less than bugger all.
I grab a quick coffee with a tra da chaser for 5,000VD. Iced tea in Vietnam is normally either a Lotus or Jasmine concoction. During the killer heat we’re experiencing around midday at the moment, a glass of this chilled nectar is thirstmungussly good. Score the exact same beverage combo in the nearby Caravelle or Sheraton hotels and you’ll be lucky if you find yourself left with much more than a nat’s pimple from 90,000VD.