Stepping into M2C, 'Modern Meets Culture’, you might be surprised by the collision of trendsetter aesthetics.

For many Tay Ho-ans, walking along the lake’s southern perimeter can be a constant reminder of a paradox of choice: so many cafés to choose from, all of them the same.

It’s late Thursday afternoon, and in the middle of a typical Saigon downpour a reporter pulls into an alley in front of a small café, praying for shelter.

I’m usually not one to follow in the footsteps of hipsters, but when I do I expect them to lead me to damn good coffee.

Just down the way from Starbucks on Nguyen Trai sits the first Vietnamese edition of UCC Coffee — Ueshima Coffee Company, a Japan-based multinational chain with its own style and mass-replicated appeal. Where Starbucks’ debut was a mix of buzz, lines and Facebook selfies, UCC Coffee hasn’t drummed up any of that in its first six months. And, in the quiet, modernist collection of nooks and comfortable, classically upholstered seats, one sees why they might have wanted it this way.

One of the great things about living in a city like Hanoi is that when the summer heat rolls in, as it inevitably does, there is no shortage of places to take refuge.

Stepping into The Gioi Donut from Hai Ba Trung is surprising; from bustlingly chaotic to brightly psychedelic. Glossy photos of donuts festoon the wallpaper, Chinese lanterns glow and toppings galore — some hitherto unimaginable — cover the goodies. Posters tell the history of donuts.

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