Welcome to…

Chuong Gio Cafe

Address: 264A, Lê Văn Sỹ, Phường 14, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh
: 9am-10:30pm

Parking: Limited Motorbike Parking in front, Free

Drinks: Coffee, Smoothies, Juices, Yogurt, etc.
Food: Ice Cream, maybe pizza?
Price Range: 33k-60k
Order This: As you like. It’s all pretty standard.

Ambience: Settle in for an afternoon and let the lack of distractions (with the curious exception of the music, which wanders all over the place) envelope you. Great place to get into the zone.
Speak English: No
English Menu: No

Wifi Quality: Excellent
Plug Availability: Excellent
Air Conditioning: Yes
Outside Area: No.

Bathroom Quality: Average
Toilet Paper Available?: None, but a very strong bum-gun.


General Impressions:

This is another cafe where the owner has absolutely got a color-boner for All That Is Brown. Unfortunately, where Alpes Cafe is able to pull it all together in an undeniably weird-yet-satisfying mixture, Chuong Gio Cafe tends to veer a little into self-parody occasionally, whether it’s the 3-way musical battle of J-Lo/Pitbull against ABBA against Eric Clapton, or the fact that whoever’s behind their facebook offers tarot readings and posts a lot of hilarious pictures of chubby cats.

And, really, this is endearing in the most Vietnamese way – it’s a good chunk of the charm.

In other words, Alpes Cafe owner Hanh prizes an emotional state above all else and everything, no matter how incongruous, works to produce that effect… but Chuong Gio has the feeling of being half-run by a restless college sophomore while the rest of the family is out of town for a month (for evidence of this, check out their facebook photo stream – it’s similarly all over the place, while also being very, very focused on cats, pictures of coffee beans, and how much they hate Mondays).

I’m in LOVE with the wallpaper in the second room – those shiny gold gingko leaves are a weirdly effective wall treatment.

But it’s a great place to get work done. It’s like being inside an unpredictable womb. It’s on a side alley, so there’s not a lot of traffic sounds outside, and the music playlist is bizarre enough to keep things interesting, and the staff is pretty shy and wrapped up in their ongoing dramas in the rear of the cafe, so they’re not going to come bother you too much.

The second floor offers another level of subdued lighting and very plush seats, and is up the stairs at the back, behind the counter.

It’s also ideal for meeting friends after work… the low-lighting is a welcome respite from the relentless sun and office lighting. The carpet is a detail that’s a tad on the nasty side (I can’t imagine keeping carpet clean in this country, though), but spotty berber carpet that’s only seen in the equivalent of 15 watts is hardly enough to prevent me from visiting when I want the distinct brand of subtle oddness that Chuong Gio offers.

One sticking point for me is that they charge 5k/glass of iced tea, which is usually complimentary – but don’t include it on the bill. So know that whatever your purchase, it’ll be 5k more than it says. There’s a sign advertising personal pizzas, but I’ve never ordered one. There are no other foodstuffs on the menu, as far as I know, yet I’ve seen someone order french fries, and I still don’t understand how that happened.

Sample Musical Selections:

I couldn’t decide. It’s so all over the place – for example, a Clapton classic was sandwiched between J-Lo’s Dance Tonight and Bruno Mars.

And this bad boy was preceded by Toni Braxton’s Un-break My Heart and Michael Buble’s Sway, so make of that what you will.
Like I said, a totally weird mix! I’m writing this in the cafe right now, and the last few tracks have been a Katy Perry remix of Unconditionally and a slow VN song, Last Day by My Tam. Weird. But strangely fascinating.

P.S. OMG NOW IT’S J-POP. This is actually kind of exciting!