We finally pulled up at inconspicuous street, which is known as 14 Ton That Dam after zipping around the city. This is one of the true hidden gems, as this comes up on the next level compared to 42 Ngyuen Hue. We didn't come across any tourist throughout our time exploring there, nor is there much information for 14 Ton That Dam as well.
A unique building for coffee breaks, shopping and also Urban Exploration (Urbex). The abandoned vibe is crazy for this one with their ratchet parking area, coupled with single-wheeled bicycle and various garbage that is littered by the sides. A lady sat by the entrance behind a newsstand who "collects" parking tickets.
(Yes you have to pay for parking here)
Upon walking into the building, you would find yourself awed by its enormous interior as there is a huge compound inside by itself. With its stairway serving the front part of the building, there are still clusters of abandoned and old buildings around its yard area. From restaurants, laundry area, to residentials, this multi-facade compound would leave your breathless as you uncover each and every single of its layer.
The front part of the building definitely seems uninviting and you would never know that right beneath the cold and dark alley would you find the most heartwarming restaurant, tea shop, and cafes. We started out by exploring the stairs. Graffitis and artwork spawn across the stairway to the top, with directories, scribbles, and doodles, you might feel that this place is being left for dead but it is certainly more alive than any building I'd been to so far.
There's a cat with her kitten clutter that would lead you to the heartwarming cafe Hoang Thi Cafe & Bar. The unique furniture and vibe are enough to bring you back against time to the retro world. Moving on up, the woozy trail of Fairy lights would lead you right into Mocking Bird, where not only does it comes with an amazing view, but amazing food and coffee as well. However, our personal favorite would definitely be Man Tu Zen Tea, as the compassionate "happy box" not only serve me as a safe space, but a perfect "emotional shelter" for me to unplug, and escape from the city.
(You can click here to read more about my experience here)
We head on up only to found ourselves a vintage shop with the likes of Nasty Girl, except that Girl Boss Sophia Amoruso isn't present. However, we were greeted with Vietnam's own version of Girl Boss, this friendly lady with a charismatic smile. She is even nice enough for me to leave a stick of my street label right outside her store! So here's a shout out for Wabi Sabi!
We explored the rest of the area, zipping through walkways, stairs while occasionally found ourselves accidentally stumbling upon residential areas when we found numerous slippers by the metal gate. Some local families are just idly watching tv while their teenage children had their faces on their tiny-lited screen.
I saw this amazingly cozy and sleek loft apartment that forever left an impression in my mind. I love big spaces, but I love small ones too, knowing that you can have more in less is pretty great a feeling. And it is nice to see how such a small living space could transform into such a heartwarming loft apartment.
We took a moment on its top floor right by the fire escape, while we watch over the whole area. I even caught some locals going about their lives, as the Vietnamese mother in her 50s was squatting right in front of her gigantic round basic doing laundry while in her loose tank top and purple flowery pants. An uncle somewhere else was brewing something from the clay pot while his lips were holding onto his reds. He then peered over to the stove while I saw the smoke from his cigarette and stove mixed before drifting up into the skies.
We venture to the bottom where we found an elderly couple sitting by their coffee, oblivious to us while they chatter in their language, foreign to us. While the plates clanking against each other in the dishwasher from Man Tu's Vegetarian Restaurant on our right. We looked in, surprised to find several backpackers alike, sitting together, some having their cups raised in the air. This heartwarming diner was "full house" on a lazy Saturday afternoon. We then walked across the yard area to finish the loop before heading back out to the streets. It felt as if we're transported back to district one after that.
The 14 Ton That Dam's surrealism vibe lingers as I can't wait to visit my safe space again, in the foreseeable future.
Name: 14 Tôn Thất Đạm
Address: Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam