Around the Neighborhood

When I’m at home in Seattle people are curious about what life is like in Saigon, and I sometimes struggle to describe what the neighborhood, neighborhood life, or neighbors are like. It’s definitely different but it has its own “normal.” Our normal day starts with a 5:45 taxi ride to the Rex Hotel fitness center and an hour swim or workout, then a quick walk over to Gloria Jean’s Coffee on Dong Khoi Street. The coffee culture in Saigon is every bit as pervasive as it is in Seattle. It’s robust and omnipresent, and even though Starbucks is thankfully absent, there are chains from the US (Coffee Bean), Australia (Gloria Jean’s), Italy (Illy), and local brands like Highlands and Nguyen Trung.

Gloria Jean’s happens to be our haunt and we know all the people who start their day there at 7am. There is Mike a venture capitalist and Hong Kong born expat from Dragon Capital, Andrew the vice-provost at RMIT the Australian technical university, Binh who sells beauty products and calls herself Brittany, Nga a single mom who has three kids and whose family business sells everything from flour to used cars. These are the hard core but there is always a sprinking of other regulars and some irregulars as well. Kurt Vonnegut says that everyone has a “karass,” a small group of people they end up running into and spending time with. Gloria Jean’s is our coffee karass.

I’m particularly taken with Saigon’s “coffee art”. Check out the swan in the cup above. Every morning the baristas strive to do something different. It might take a little longer to get the coffee but the pleasure is all mine.

More about the neighbors tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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