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PRIDE Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City is flying the flag for Vietnam’s LGBTQ+ community

PRIDE Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City is flying the flag for Vietnam’s LGBTQ+ community

As we finish the year and roll into a new one, The Bureau Chief has handed me the reins to write reviews on some of the more interesting and perhaps lesser-known cafes in Saigon that can be great places to work from and hang out. 

I love working in cafes.

From the ambiance and vibe to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee and spacious settings, there’s something about coffee shops that just makes productivity go from zero to 100! 

Obviously, not all cafes are suitable to work from for a number of reasons, so I figured l’d highlight several cafes over the coming year that can help you get some work done whilst sipping your favourite cuppa.

For this post, I decided to visit PRIDE Cafe.

The emphasis of our cafe is not on having any labels and to be welcoming of all

PRIDE Cafe is situated above a Viettel store on Tran Hung Dao Street in District 1, just past the Pullman Hotel, which is close to the party street of Bui Vien.

There are a few reasons why I wanted to check this relatively new cafe out.

Firstly, it only fully-opened just before our last lockdown so I wanted to see how it was faring given that cafes and venues were closed for months.

Also, the photos on their Facebook page look amazing and immediately grabbed my attention one day when I was searching online for a place to work.

And, perhaps best of all, it’s close to my place.

PHOTO: The Bureau Asia

A cafe for all

According to partners and co-owners Derek and Quan, PRIDE Cafe was created to be an inclusive destination for the Saigon community, regardless of where you identify along the broad LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum.

I can feel the authenticity from the guys as they tell me about the origins of the cafe and what it represents, from the events that resonate on their social media page, to the design of their colour-coded menu paying homage to the various flags that represent the diversity of the community. 

While labels are an important part of identity, Derek envisions the cafe to be a place where all are welcome: “The emphasis of our cafe is not on having any labels and to be welcoming of all,” he says.

PHOTO: The Bureau Asia

First impressions

Finding PRIDE Cafe is easy enough, with parking roadside and a security guard downstairs to look after my motorbike for VND5,000.

The entrance on the ground floor is small and unassuming (although there are plans afoot to add some eye-catching bling kerbside) and there are only two flights of stairs to get up to the cafe.

When I get to the alfresco-style entrance after a largely sedate introduction downstairs, I’m greeted with a blazing neon sign screaming BeYOUtiful in white and hot pink letters across a space that includes two pink-cushioned swings suspended by ropes from the ceiling.

It’s a curtain-raiser to what I can expect inside.

PHOTO: The Bureau Asia

Indeed, the interior doesn’t disappoint.

When I walk in, the cafe has a spacious vibe which can comfortably meet current pandemic restrictions of around 25 people inside and 15 outside.

There’s plenty of space for more.

The combination of soft lights that spell out PRIDE alongside the other neon messages above the bar works well – it’s just enough to make you look, but isn’t loud so as to distract you if you’re here for work or to enjoy a drink with friends.

Derek designed the interior, with the space initially being two separate apartments when they took over, but the boys have cleverly combined the two.

The added mirrors give an illusion of more space and it really works with the overall decor. 

PHOTO: The Bureau Asia

Nice drinks and chill

PRIDE Cafe is quite unique in our city.

“If you make something for one group,” says Derek, “you tend to alienate others as they may not feel welcome because ‘I’m not this type.'”

The cafe runs various queer events including a monthly book club, and hopes to start bi-weekly queer movie nights. Before lockdown, they successfully hosted The Big Queer Comedy Show, and there are more exciting ideas in the pipeline.

It demonstrates PRIDE Cafe’s differentiation, something that Derek is keen to highlight:

“We want to do stuff that bars can’t do.” 

Another thing I like about what Derek and Quan are doing with PRIDE is that they approach it as a way to work with other bars and cafes around the city.

With PRIDE’S ambition to be recognised as a space for all, it happily cross-promotes other cafes and bars that perhaps lean more towards specific groups or niches.

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As Derek says: “We’re not really competitors, so we can promote other places that cater to specific communities.”

People can also come and play various board games on offer, too.

Derek mentions that it’s important for PRIDE to create a chill vibe with its customers so that “they want to hang out, chill, and have good but affordable beverages.”

PHOTO: The Bureau Asia

With an updated menu, PRIDE Cafe offers a fairly wide range of drinks, ranging from a standard ca phe to some iced ones, including a delicious coconut coffee.

Prices range from VND50,000 for a ca phe da to their signature drinks which range between VND75,000 to VN85,0000.

Since opening earlier in the year, the team at PRIDE has taken the opportunity to redesign the menu based on their customers’ feedback and tastes, including a rejig of their signature drinks.

Now is the perfect time to go and sample them yourself.

The lowdown

Overall, I recommend PRIDE Cafe as a cool place to come and check out.

The space is fresh, modern and fun, but cosy enough so you can work here. It really is quite chilled out.

The drink prices are reasonable and while food choices are limited with only selected pastries and desserts currently available, the cafe is close enough to local eateries to duck out for a quick feed before returning.

This is definitely a place to put on your list coming into 2022 as one of the unique but cool places to work from.

Words by Andrew Tran. Follow Andy on Instagram @andrewtrandigital

PRIDE Cafe is at 166E Tran Hung Dao St., District 1, HCMC

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