Living in a city as large as Ho Chi Minh, you are never far from anything you could need – a somewhat foreign concept coming from a country where there are more livestock than people and ‘the neighbours’ could potentially live kilometres from you.
The city is largely comprised of alleyways (or Hems as they are called here) bustling with activity. These pockets of life are littered with street vendors, cafes and restaurants as well as the odd hair salon and clothes shop. We are lucky enough to live down a very cool Hem that has all of the above and more just steps from our front door. Seeing as we’re moving house in a week I thought it was timely to share this post that I’ve been meaning to finish about a very cool establishment on our doorstep.
Quy Dalat is quite simply adorable. To be honest, it caught my eye purely because they appeared to be serving wine there but there is so much more to enjoy in the quaint cafe. The atmosphere can only be described as romantic. The lights are so low that everyone looks good, the surroundings are reminiscent of a bygone era where love was all you needed and you’re serenaded by Vietnamese acoustic musicians who inject an incredible amount of emotion and soul into every song. The guitar style is very interesting to listen to – a unique blend of Spanish, Greek and traditional Vietnamese influences.
The décor is as I said, nostalgic and also very cosy (it’s so dark in there that our camera wouldn’t take pictures unless we had our blinding flash on so it misses some of the charm but you get the idea). You really feel like you’re in someone’s home rather than a cafe.
And yes, they do serve wine! The red wine is all we’ve attempted (white wine here is less than ideal) and it comes iced. They also serve it with a strange flower/seed thing in the glass which makes the wine very sweet at first and later, incredibly salty. These usually end up on the table about three quarters of the way through our glasses.
The music is why you come here though. Later in the evening, they open the floor to anyone who wants to have a bash at singing alongside the very talented resident guitar player (they seem to rotate a few). This can work out well like the time we heard a Vietnamese woman with an unusually deep and husky voice sing Yesterday but can also backfire when Western music is attempted. Vietnamese people favour the crooners of our generation meaning Ronan Keating and the likes are the typical choices.
A couple of nights ago we ventured there and I was persuaded to sing alongside a woman who decided she’d like to treat me to an English song. I thought she had said we were singing With or without you by U2 but when I plonked myself up there it turned out she meant Mariah’s rendition of the ballad I can’t live if living is without you. Her voice was beautiful but unfortunately (or maybe more fortunately for the punters) I didn’t know the lyrics – except for the chorus. For some reason the audience didn’t try to twist my arm for an encore…
This is me realising I don’t know the words
And this is me not giving a rats and trying anyway…
Aside from the questionable song choices and odd person whose friends didn’t try hard enough to discourage from embracing the mic (aka ME), the place truly is a gem and I hope that even after our move we will be back for our sweet and salty wine fix.
Interestingly there is another very similar place next door – Hoang Cafe- which we’ve been to once. They are both always packed so there doesn’t appear to be any sort of rivalry, it’s more like they compliment each other – one place is full so you head to the next one. We arrived late to Hoang and the bar was closed. However, we were still let in and served a complimentary tra da (iced tea) which we were able to enjoy with the remainder of the gig. Again, Vietnamese hospitality prevails- unfortunately so does the early bed time that seems to plague even the biggest city in the country.
Although, once this worked in our favour as we were politely shown the door around 10pm. Still not keen to call it a night, we went outside to where some of the regulars were having a jam. We were with some other expat friends of ours and together we all had a big singalong session in the alley. It really was a magic night and proves that even if you don’t speak the same language, everyone speaks the language of music. Quy Dalat – we will miss you.