Good Coffee Viet Nam

First of all you’ve not actually found a typo three words into this blog. Viet Nam is the correct way to space out the name of this delightful country and Vietnam is the ‘Western way’ and seeing as this piece was written in Ho Chi Minh I have decided to use the local spelling. OK fine, notes were made in my trusty pad while in Viet Nam on the 18th of November 2023 and who cares that I am actually typing it up on November thirtieth. In Dunedin, New Zealand. Shut up it’s still 2023!

April 21st, in Amsterdam and I should, will, be publishing this blog today. Maybe.

I found word of this coffee shop while I was on Google Maps searching for something, coffee I guess. When Old Compass cafe popped up it sounded interesting when I read the brief synopsis of this place *

‘Hip coffeehouse offering simple Thai fare, coffee, wine & breakfast grub plus art and authors…’

If I am being honest ‘hip’ ‘wine’ and ‘breakfast grub’ didn’t grab nor ‘art’. It was mostly their name Old Compass and the mention of authors seeing as secretly I’d love to be an author. A writer of any note really. Yes. I am writing and clearly I have readers, a reader, you! And unless someone is reading this over your shoulder it’d be presumptuous to assume my readership is plural.

I’m with Lyn for a few weeks of travel taking in seven countries and a couple of continents. I’m ‘working’ if you can count a couple of forty five minute sets on various high end cruise ships as work. I can’t and won’t ever call it work, the only effort is listening to the insesssent compliments after the show. Again, presumptuous it is rarely plural. It’s rarely singular!

If you’ve been to Viet Nam you’ll know the biggest hurdle is traffic and to find this cafe we need to navigate 1000’s of scooters none of which seem content to be carrying just the one passenger. Often it is a family, sometimes a huge load and once a three seater Chesterfield. My preferred method of crossing is to just go for it. Walk purposefully across the street as if I in fact own the blacktop and the scooters are trespassing on my land. Lyn’s preferred route is to hold on to my hand and with the full force of her tiny (four feet ten inches) frame she somehow musters the strength to pull back my six foot (artistic license – I am about five eleven now and every time I go to the doctors I seem to shrink so I did what any other guy would do and have stopped visiting my doc). Thus we have to start the whole game again.

Once on Pasteur our search for the Old Compass is fruitless. Nothing. We’ve given up and have turned around heading back to Bèn Thành Market. Dejected and head down I don’t even notice I am being asked if I would enjoy a massage. I only notice as the leaflet is thrusted into my face. Looking up, a Vietnamese lady repeats the offer of a full massage adding, I swear as she looks straight at Lyn, 

‘Happy ending!’

I look at Lyn, and back at the ‘masseuse’.

‘There is no way this would end happily.’ And. Wander away patting myself on the back for my speedy witty response.

Lyn takes my hand. I stop and ask the same lady 

‘Do you know the Old Cmpass Cafe?’

She rolls her eyes, sighs, says nothing and just points up a very dodgy looking alley.

I don’t think twice as I pull Lyn to the right and start a confident walk along this decrepit walkway before my confidence is boasted by the sight of a huge red sign, half way down on the right another sign then three flights of dark bare concrete stairs greet us and although we are now in a cool shady spot the sweating shows no sign of disapatting as we climb the stairs. Reaching the top we push open the two doors and are presented with a glorious view. Near empty but full of charm is a cafe spot that rockets into my top ten. The comfy seats are taken by a young couple but Lyn and I prefer a table as we are keen backgammon players and this will afford us the chance to play in yet another city. Coffee, and juice ordered the game is set up and dice are thrown. 

As the perfect Machiatto is placed in front of me I find myself a game down but the Macchiato I perfect. I could care less about the game….although over this trip it sees me six four down, so care less, nope, care a fraction, oh yes!

Lyn visits the ladies and I ask Nhi, the manager, if I can take some pictures. I do, as you can see and afterwards I approach a couple of guys to ask their permission to use these images as they appear in them. A quick ‘yes’ from the traveller in the corner and an enventual ‘sure’ from the shaven haded guy talking to Nhi. I ask and after a back and forth where Mark announces he will have to see his make up staff first adding a quick chat with his ‘people’ regarding some kind of compensation will be in order. Me NOT being me, I just smile, I say nothing aside from thanking him when I can finally get a word in. By am I glad of this influence Lyn has over me, specifically my typical ‘cut my nose off to spite my face’ over reactions.

A couple of more games finished: 8-5 if you’re keeping score, and we are! And we pack up ready to go. I turn to compliment Nhi on her spot only then do I learn that the chatty bald guy is the owner and the next fifteen minutes is a blur of information and laughs. The Old Compass is only a half dozen years old and offers so much more including city walks which we assure him we will attend next time we are in town. Not an idle promise as we are back in January.

I can not tell you how much I loved this spot. On any other visit I’d be here all day, reading and writing. It is just about perfect, and as soon as an elevator is installed, perfect it will be! But do visit it. Don’t give up when your first search isn’t a success. Persevere, I promise you it’s worth the extra paces.

We did go back to the old compass before we left Viet Nam but it would be remiss of me to not mention Zan Coffee. 

Spotted as we wandered looking for September 23d Park my eye was caught by this tiny, I don’t know, hut? Three tiny chairs and a small table all of which are the perfect size for a kid stil at school, or Lyn. Before we walk pass someone coming in the opposite direction tells us without breaking stride that the coffee here is fab and ‘…you have to try Orange coffee…’ so we promise we will.

Sure enough the following morning we jump off the shuttle bus with time constraints today we have a list we have to adhere to: buy earrings from the Old Post Office, Christmas cards, a cap, a patch and a revisit to Old Compass. Because of it’s location near to the return shuttle bus stop we decide Zan Coffee can wait until last. A near fatal decision. With the list complete we order two, yes, TWO Orange Coffees. Anyone who knows me knows I love coffee and how proud I am of my lofty and snobby opinions on the subject and how I mock and sneer equally at anyone who dare to dilute their coffee with, well, anything….yet here I am ordering an Orange Coffee. And it’s cold!

Damn it, it’s delicious too.  Walking back to the last bus, we notice we have fifteen minutes and most unlike Lyn we stop walking…

‘Time for a game?’ She asks

‘And another Orange Coffee…’ I hear my self replying.

I am now leading 15-8.

*After suggesting this coffee spot to comedian Darren Sanders he sent me a screen shot of a recent message exchange where it proves it was he who first recommended The Old Compass Cafe although my reply suggests that I already knew of it….





3 responses to “Good Coffee Viet Nam”

  1. Hilby Avatar

    Who doesn’t love a happy ending if it comes as a perfect cup of macchiato.

  2. Lyn Thurston Avatar
    Lyn Thurston

    Orange coffee. What a memory!

    1. Paul Avatar

      Ssshhhh. I’m not supposed to like flavoured coffee.

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