The Cafe Apartment at 42 Nguyen Hue St. is an extremely old (dating back to the 50s) and rather dilapidated 9-storey building, which was originally meant to be used as residential units. In recent years, most of the units have been taken over by a smorgasbord of independent cafes, fashion boutiques and other cutesy shops.
There are signages at its street-level entrance (below). Funny thing is, you wouldn't really notice this building at all. The average tourist would just pass it by, with nary a second glace.
There is an elevator, with a fee of VND3,000 (roughly USD0.13), which will likely be refunded by the establishment you patronize. I was actually a bit taken aback by the elevator fee - first time to encounter such.
Dao and i went to the top floor. It was cool and breezy at the 9th storey; and looking out, i was struck by the tall, narrow buildings (usually hotels) i've been seeing in the tourist area of District 1 - like this one in the pic:
Dao and i decided to go down via the stone staircase and take a sneak peek at the shops at each storey. As i mentioned earlier, there are still some remaining residential units in this building, so i wondered what the occupants thought of these commercial establishments in their midst.
Some of the interesting shops we saw:
Cat cafe, perhaps?
Ah, Mr. Bean coffee bean coffee shop!
Here's how the building looks from the side:
At each storey (this is Lau 6, or 6th floor), the elevator landing is full of posters and advertorials of the shops therein:
Ah! This one below requires no explanation :D Come in for a fitting!
Sushi place at the end of the corridor.
Look at this mural we saw on one of the walls.
One of the most well-known establishments, The Maker.
The trick really is to be on the other side of Nguyen Hue St., so one can see this building's facade (admittedly shabby and not awe-inspiring by any stretch of the imagination). Here's a photo of it, from the blog CAPREOLI ROUND THE WORLD:
Overall, i think exploring the various shops and eating in one (or more) cafes / restos would be an interesting way to spend an idyllic afternoon. Charming idea to have so many cafes under one building.
For an in-depth article on this old apartment building, check this link to Vietnam Coracle. When in Saigon, do check this building out! It may not be around for long, due to the incessant push for modernity. Also, the government authorities are apparently cracking down, since households are not officially allowed to conduct business on apartment units (according to the Saigoneer).
[This is the last post for my Saigon series. Hope you enjoyed reading as much as i enjoyed visiting Saigon!]