Sitting cross-legged on a cushion, pretending my hips joints aren’t screaming for mercy, I write out postcards – simple prints of old propaganda posters – ready to post off to people I miss from home. I’m in a café called Cong Caphe and I realise as soon as I walk in that this place is a ‘thing’, it’s a place people want to be seen in, a cool place. It’s really busy and the iced coconut coffee I order is expensive but tastes like heaven so I continue with my plan, write my postcards, endure the hip pain.
I take some time to look at my surroundings and start to understand why I’m finding this place a little strange.
The tables are wooden and look hand-made unless they’re wooden barrels. There are bars on the inside of the windows and chicken wire covering the glass outside. Drinks come in tin cups, candles and flowers in recycled jars sit on the tables and the cushions are all in a flowery red fabric I guess was common at the time. It’s a Viet Cong hideout.
War time photographs are stuck up on the walls that are concrete and have been given a bullet-hole patina. Groups of young people with interesting hair huddle around tables as though they’re planning war strategy or writing letters home but what they’re actually doing is taking photos of their drinks and putting them on instagram.
It gets weirder. The waiters and waitresses wear uniforms of wide khaki cotton pants tucked into Doc Marten boots and khaki t shirts with the Communist Vietnamese yellow star in the centre. You can buy a Cong coffee t shirt of your very own for 250k Dong.
I fear working in a museum has addled me. Is this homage or parody? War is trauma, not coffee shop décor. Or is it? I don’t know. My iced coconut coffee is the best thing that’s happened to me today so I take my time and enjoy it, in my Viet Cong hideout on a busy street in the centre of Hanoi.
Cong Ca Phe’s can be found all over Hanoi, you can find all of their addresses below.