Phan Thiet Pet Cafe, A Lizard Love Story

The night before Mothers Day, my girls weekend away sidekick fulfilled her wish to eat dong lizard.

We were sitting at a little place overlooking the Ca Ty River, sampling some of Phan Thiet’s local delicacies when we noticed some lizards in a cage behind us.

As sometimes happens in Vietnam, we were being treated like celebrities for simply appearing here, in a spot far off the tourist trail. And as sometimes happens on kid-free girls weekends away, we lapped it up.

So when our waiter wanted to introduce us to our dinner, of course we said yes.

dong lizard

I have to admit, the lizard looked much cuter alive than dead. But dong lizard is considered one of the most sustainable food sources in Vietnam, so I surpressed my squeamishness.

Willow said the lizard tasted like frog.

As an old dong lizard hand, I thought it tasted like lizard. Barbecued with a bit too much chilli.


barbecued dong lizard

Our first night of freedom was an absolute blast. We’re not getting old or anything, but the night ended well before midnight. After a few beers in our hotel room.

The next morning I woke up at the time Sonny usually wakes me up — 4.30am. Gah. Not good. After a few hours of trying to get back to sleep I decided to make the most of my extra-long day and explore our little area of Phan Thiet.

I charged along streets lined with people eating, hoping Willow would wake up soon. I wondered how many breakfasts we could manage because there were so many options along the streets I was walking.

Finally Willow texts me to say she’s awake. I turn for home, looking for some coffee to pick up on the way.

I see a big sign advertising takeaway coffee and I order two serves of Vietnam’s fabulous cà phê sữa đá … to go.

Then I spot a guy with an iguana on his shoulder.

Pet Cafe

My first thought is that perhaps I did manage to go back to sleep and this is a dream. Because it doesn’t really seem possible to be seeing a South American lizard in a tiny town in south-central Vietnam.

My second thought is that I hope I don’t smell like a lizard-eater to this giant reptile.

My third thought is Willow has GOT to see this.

My fourth thought is … photos. Must. Take. Photos.

Of course, my camera is fogged from being hauled out of an air-conditioned hotel room into steamy early morning Vietnam.

I am feeling a bit panicked by the amazingness of what I’m seeing and I can’t quite work out what to do next.

Phan Thiet Pet Cafe

I decide Willow can wait a bit while the camera unfogs. I’ve just bought her coffee, after all. I am yet to find out if she’s a morning person but … coffee cures everything, right?

The lizard guy is chuffed by my excitement. He poses for me then points to the back of the cafe.


Phan Thiet Pet Cafe

I can’t believe it.

There’s even a second iguana sitting in a palm tree beside the cafe!

I go fetch Willow who is even more excited by the lizards than me.

We take photos and squeal like school girls at a Beatles concert. The lizard guy thinks we’re crazy. In a nice way.

Phan Thiet Pet Cafe

Somewhere along the line we realise that the coffee is fabulous.

Then we realise that the place is called Pet Cafe.

We have more coffee. (And Willow says she doesn’t feel the least bit interested in eating these lizards.)

We vow to come back.

We discover the lizard guy’s name is Truong and the Pet Cafe opened two weeks ago. We discover Mr Truong owns Truong Thinh Hotel that houses the Pet Cafe.

And, believe it or not, our day got even better.

But that’s another story.


Pet Cafe, 28 Tuyen Quang Street, Phan Thiet


If you haven’t done so already, like The Dropout Diaries on Facebook


6 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. This is gross and kind of cool all at once. Even though I’m a bit squeamish, I would sooooo eat a lizard!
    Tracey – Life Changing Year recently posted..Favourite Fotos: Can You Take A Selfie With Someone Else?

    • Barbara says:

      I’m quite squeamish and I usually only eat weird stuff if someone else tries it first to check it’s not gag-inducing. Luckily Darling Man is happy to do that for me … and so was Willow!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge