Young Pioneer Tours

Cafe Apartments Saigon – A post-communist masterpiece?

Cafe Apartments in Saigon marks one of the newest and trendiest areas within Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a great example of what can be achieved in formerly communist spaces.

Apartments from the 1950’s this whole area has gone through much change to what it is today, tourist draw and a fairly good place for a night out.

History of Cafe Apartments

Originally built in the 1950’s their prime location meant that they were never going to be housing mere plebs. Initially this was military housing with naval officers getting to call the place home. This was of course in the tine of South Vietnam and before the reunification of the fatherland.

After reunification Vietnam would toil away at Socialism for 10 years, during which period the apartments, as per socialist standards were allocated to the “workers”, in this stance form the shipyards..

Vietnam would of course then do the whole Doi Moi thing and would either bring back capitalism or markey socialism, depending on your political lime.

In the 2010’s this would creep into Cafe Apartments, as in classic fashion one or two people had a great idea, namely making cafes, before everyone jumped on board.

Nowadays it is not only a visual treat, but also a huge and important area for tourism.

What is there at Cafe Apartments Saigon

Located right slap bang in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City in District 1, this is the area still known as Saigon. This puts it where all the action is such as walking street, as well as the best street food.

To get up and explore will either cost you 13 cents in the elevator, which is always full, or you can traverse the stairs by foot. What you will find is now mostly franchises from Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, but there are still one or two artisanal and independent spots. Sadly these are though now in minority.

There are though numerous restaurants, bars, cafes and the like making it a great place to eat and drink regardless of things. I personally did lunch at Oops Cafe, a very dry Taiwanese dessert shop.

Post-Soviet Capitalism

What os perhaps most interesting about the place, at least from a YPT commie point of view is what it represents and shows us about when state run economies open up. Sadly it also shows us how quick the window us before the franchises move on and take over.

In the 2010’s this was where independent people set up independent establishments as part of the transition from a state to market run economy. This meant that people took risks and tried to do something different. Such a thing has been seen throughout China and the Eastern Block, with places such as 789 art district being prime examples.

Sadly though while these initially are great examples of the best of capitalism, they always tend to fall to the worst of things. Nowadays very little, perhaps 20 percent of Apartment Cafes establishments are independent, with big companies and franchises ruling the roost. This is perfectly epitomized by the fact that Starbucks is but opposite. Yes they have not done great in Vietnam, but it is myth to say that they do not exist.

Is it worth visiting Cafe Apartments? Well when you come here it is full of tourists to a degree that is very much not what YPT stand for. Also is Cafe Apartments worth the hype? Without doubt not, yet while you can definitely find places that are a little more “authentic” you will lose nothing from at least coming for a wee look and some photos.

YPT check out this place on our South-East Asian Adventure.

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