A small, out-of-the-way cafe serves up peace and quiet, not to mention an interesting collection of books. By Dana Filek-Gibson. Photos by Vinh Dao.
From morning to night, downtown District 1 to the furthest reaches of Go Vap, Saigon is forever making noise. We hear it on the streets and in cafes, outside of phone stores and coming from the other side of our apartment walls. While the city certainly has its fair share of cool cafes, upscale restaurants and other trendy spaces, peace and quiet are precious commodities in a place as hyperactive as Saigon.
Which is why Behide, a small, hole-in-the-wall establishment just inside the borders of Phu Nhuan, stands out. Though its aesthetic is much like the rest of your standard Saigon cafes, this tiny corner of the city is dedicated to silence, making the spot a prime location to get some work done, curl up with a good book or simply escape the bustle of downtown.
Wedged between two small boutiques, Behide’s red sign is easy to miss from the street. Motorists will have to park in the alley a few doors down from the cafe, but once you’ve secured your bike head upstairs to the first-floor entrance, where rows of individual tables and cushions populate its small, air-conditioned space. The newly-opened venue, only a few months old, has minimal furniture but its quiet atmosphere and ample outlets around the room are perfect for an afternoon of work or a place to unwind.
On the menu, you’ll find an eclectic range of drinks, from coffee and tea lattes to Thai milk tea, matcha and cinnamon hot chocolate. Get your caffeine fix from a Nespresso latte (VND 45,000), hot matcha (VND 35,000) or the signature Son Ha Xa Tac tea (VND 30,000), a blend of Tuyet Son tea from northern Vietnam, mint tea, lemongrass and cumquat. For a more refreshing beverage, Behide’s rendition of salted lime (VND 30,000), or chanh muoi, is spot-on, an ice-cold take on the local favourite, which features lime soaked in saltwater with a bit of sugar mixed in to balance the bitterness. All beverages range between VND 20,000 and VND 50,000, and the cafe also offers a small food menu which includes a few Korean snacks, such as gimbap, topokki and a particularly tasty japchae (VND 40,000).
But perhaps the best part of Behide are the stacks of books that line its walls. Though most are in Vietnamese, you’ll also find a reasonable number of English-language novels on the shelves, several of which move beyond the mass-market paperbacks often found in Saigon’s bookshops.