If there’s one thing which is in abundance across the length and breadth of HCMC it’s coffee shops. Whether the happen to be hole-in-the-wall spaces with plastic tables and chairs serving the strong local blend, or the more expensive but usually very ambient cafes of the type one might expect to see in a European capital.
The latter, and even some of the former, pretty much all have free wi-fi for their customers, and this has led to quite a few becoming virtual workplaces for individuals, as well as smaller groups of co-workers. It is possible to see small clusters of four, five and even more huddled around a table or two with laptops open and people furiously tapping away on their keyboards as they sip on their morning cup of Joe.
Both individuals and the small groups can often spend a number of hours almost daily taking up space in quite a few coffee shops. For web-related businesses, as long as there is a good internet connection and wi-fi available, then sitting in a coffee shop adds a certain relaxed and informal feel to the workday.
Of course, as with anywhere in the world, it’s important not to abuse the privilege of being able to conduct your online business from a coffee shop. Simply ordering a couple of cups of coffee, or tea, and maybe a snack or two during the course of the hours you might spend in such an environment is going to be appreciated by the owner/operator of the establishment. There’s a quid pro quo here: the café gets a regular clientele and looks busy to outsiders, which helps in attracting more customers, while the work groups get to achieve their daily targets in a relaxed and usually happy environment.
Thankfully, most HCMC coffee shops, especially those in the popular expat and tourist-oriented areas, seem quite happy to have little pockets of individuals and small groups using their premises as a workplace.
The internet and the mobility it has given to so many has led to a real cultural shift when it comes to what is now considered a workplace. Indeed, the shift has been dramatic and is taking place across the world.
For example, London has seen coffee shops increase in number, and many are happy to be used as informal business locations and as so-called ‘hot desk’ workspaces.
Many digital nomads and even expat business people have taken to working out of the many coffee shops which proliferate in HCMC, especially in Districts 1 and 3.
As many expats and regular visitors are well aware, the digital tribe is well and truly up and running all across HCMC, sharing co-working spaces alongside local entrepreneurs and rubbing shoulders with other like-minded people from around the world in cafes all over the city.
At the time of writing, there are a number of coffee shops which are not only well-placed in terms of location, but also offer a wonderful ambience and plenty of space for individuals and groups to work.
Cosmo Café, corner of Le Thanh Ton and Le Pasteur Street, has a nice ambience and plenty of space.
ID Café, 34D Thu Khoa Huan St, is one of the better-known and more popular places for groups. So it’s a good place to go if you are looking to maybe hook up with others operating in a similar work environment. The downstairs section is fairly small, but upstairs is expansive.
L’usine, 151 Dong Khoi (1st floor), is another which is extremely popular at present. Part of the reason is that it is simply excellent in terms of its overall ambience and presentation and the coffee is top notch. The entrance is through an arcade with the coffee shop on the first floor.
L’usine also has a second outlet, which is as good as its original. Situated at 70B Le Loi St, (1st floor) it is not far from the Ben Thanh Market.
M2C, 44B Ly Tu Trong, is an outlet from the same people who own ID Café. Naturally, the owners of ID Café have watched how well their business has done with encouraging digital entrepreneurs and supporting small workgroups, and they’ve replicated this in M2C.
Masstige Coffee, 125 Ho Tung Mau, is a large coffee shop with plenty of natural light and loads of tables across its two levels.
Thoai Vien Café, 159 Nguyen Van Thu, is one of many garden cafes scattered usually about the outskirts of the city in District 10. On days when the heat is not too intense or when it’s not likely to rain, these generally spacious cafes can be a great way to work while feeling like you’re in an almost countryside setting.
ID Café, 61B Tu Xuong, is, as the name would suggest, another branch of the original located in District 1. As with any potential work station, your reason for coming here will be based on how easy it is to get to from where you happen to be living. This branch loses nothing in comparison with its longer-established version.
M2C, 4B Le Quy Don, is right opposite the War Remnants Museum, so this second branch of the original attracts quite a number of tourists. It’s larger than its elder sibling, but still offers the same kind of friendly workspace for the digital entrepreneur.
The above list is far from comprehensive. A simple walk down any of the major streets of either District 1 or 3, or elsewhere in HCMC, will reveal more coffee shops than most people could probably ever dream of trying out in the space of a couple of months or more.
Most of these better-known places have a presence on the web, so a simple search will uncover opening hours and give an indication of what they are about in terms of business ethics and what can be done.
The best thing you can do is find a couple of places which suit your budget and style and try them out. As with most businesses, once you find somewhere where you are happy, you’ll keep coming back and soon become a recognized and much-valued customer.