A good memory. It happened last January. About 8 hours before my return flight to Shanghai. I had just driven my girlfriend back from Long An to her house in Saigon. I was worried that I would fall asleep and miss my red eye so we decided we should visit my girlfriend’s classmate’s coffee shop also located in Tan Phu District.
The ride from Long An was fast since it was a holiday. Getting to Saigon was a breeze. Saigon is such a beautiful city but even more during holidays since you did not have to deal with the hustle of traffic. Getting to Nao Coffee was quite easy. We parked outside of the coffee shop.
Nao was one of the popular garden style outside coffee shops. Always busy despite the weather. Nao had hanging flower pots all over the coffee shop. There was one TV hanging over an old sofa by the front counter where the waitress sat. We sat there. This gave us a good view of the entire coffee shop. More importantly, I got to see the motorbike traffic go by. This was one of my favorite past times in Saigon. I loved to watch the traffic.
My girlfriend’s friend would not arrive for one hour so we ordered ahead. I got a cà phê sữa đá literally, coffee with condensed milk and ice) and my girlfriend got a fruit drink. We had our iced teas served by the waitress but neither of us drank them. It was late and the only caffeine I needed would come from the ca phe sua da which would come in about 5 minutes.
I started to look around the coffee shop. There was one table with a family next to the street. They were happy but one of the young men kept looking at me seriously. It was unnerving until I realized he was watching the TV above the sofa I was sitting at. I think there was a game on but I could not tell. I did not care, I was enjoying the scenery that the coffee shop offered.
About 7 pm my girlfriend’s friend arrived. She came with her son who could speak English very well. He kept himself busy playing with a game on his mother’s mobile phone. My girlfriend and her talked for a while.
I had actually visited Nao Coffee back in 2011 with Chris. He had located it when he was driving home on motorbike from District 1 to his house in Tan Phu. One day we met there and I remember at the time that it was an amazing coffee shop. We sat in the tables near the road and spent a couple hours there. We both ordered ca phe sua da. I think we had lunch there as well. Should I have known it was my girlfriend’s friend’s coffee shop at that time, I probably would have burned it down. I’m glad I didn’t…
After having a good conversation, my girlfriend and I decided to head back to her house. It was about 10 pm, I would leave for the airport around 11:15 pm. She bought three 0.5 kg bags of coffee for me to give to my colleagues and principals back in Shanghai. We said goodbye then headed back to the other side of Tan Phu.
Once at my girlfriend’s house, we had to get past her tenant’s bulldog. Oh that thing was sure awfully friendly. Too friendly in fact, he kept getting his drool all over me. Somehow I was able to park the Vespa inside the house. The tenant had been sleeping in front of the TV with a mosquito net on. I felt bad since I probably kept her and her son up due to my late flight.
I should have left earlier since my girlfriend needed sleep but somehow I convinced her that I would stay until 11 pm. When that time came, she called Vinasun. We then walked to her alleyway to meet the taxi on the street. As we walked to the street, the tenant was walking her other dog.
I kissed my girlfriend goodbye and headed to the airport. Departures like this are always hard for me. Normally I travel to Tan Son Nhat Airport by myself. Once in a while, the taxi driver will speak to me but today, he did not. He was not sure if I could speak Vietnamese.
The drive was fast. I got to the airport at 11:30 pm. Check-in was slow but I was able to have short conversation with a French Vietnamese woman. She was interesting; her husband had to take an earlier Vietnam Airlines flight to Paris. She was taking their kids on China Eastern via Shanghai. She had coincidentally worked in Shanghai before. I enjoyed speaking with her but the ticket counter asked her to check in earlier since she was with her kids. Eventually I got my boarding pass as well.
Then off to immigration followed by security. My plane arrived late so I got to spent 30 more minutes in my beloved Vietnam. We took off about 2:30 am and I arrived to Shanghai about 4 hours later.
I’m already missing Vietnam.
Kevin Miller, Jr. resided in Saigon, Vietnam, from 2004 -2013, and is known for his blog, SaigonNezumi.com. He is currently teaching computer science with an international school in Shanghai, China, flying frequently back to Vietnam.