On this eighth Freaky Friday post, I am really excited to share with you a special list of 3 things which highlighted this week. Vietnamese love for coffee and the Vietnamese war history will be closely related in this post. A unique cafe in Da Nang, Vietnam combines these two aspects of the Vietnamese culture in only one spot. Let me take you there!
Some encounters affect you more than others. I was taken with the cafe owner of Binh’s Caphe, a passionate of all radio communication during the Vietnamese war period. Sometimes, it is important to take the time to discuss with locals. They are the key to a better understanding of the visited country’s culture. Their stories can open your mind and change your vision of the world forever.
Ok, enough talking, now more acting!
☕ A strong coffee culture in Vietnam
To all coffee lovers, add Vietnam to your bucket list. A trip there will awaken your taste buds eager for delicate caffeinated flavors. Vietnam is one of the biggest producers/exporters of coffee beans worldwide. It is not surprising then if Vietnamese like their coffee breaks at any time of the day or night.
Coffee culture in Vietnam is not a matter of generations or age. At the terrace of a cafe, families, friends or lovers meet up to have their daily iced coffee. The coffee break is considered as a moment to chill out or meeting with the ones you love.
Vietnamese coffee has a specific flavor: a bit caramelized and sweet. Served in a glass instead of a mug, it comes with ice cubes to give you a certain comfort. First, the coffee is filtered using a typical Vietnamese stainless steel filter. Then, it is sweetened by putting a spoon of condensed milk according to the Saigon style.
On a humid day, coffee is well appreciated being cold even iced. To balance the bitter taste of coffee beans, Vietnamese people drink it generally with sweetened milk or condensed milk. A real pleasure that Westerners try to consume with moderation due to its calorific value.
⛬ History & museums – Focus on the war period
Vietnam is quite a young country that became independent just a few years ago. Although, its past wasn’t often too reasuring. The country had to face and then survive from many conflicts. A few museums around the nation are now telling about Vietnamese history.
1. War Remnants Museum – HCMC
This museum relates to the Vietnam War under different aspects. The downstairs area showcases a few propaganda posters from various countries in support of Vietnam. Then, the first floor talks about Vietnamese people who suffered from the war: those affected by the Agent Orange as well as the soldiers who fought for their country.
Visiting this museum might give you goosebumps. You might also feel a certain anger if you come from the U.S. or France. It is located not far away from the Reunification Palace. Steve & I only took a few pictures because we felt it wasn’t really the appropriate place for a photo shooting.
War Remnants Museum – 28 Võ Văn Tần, District 1, HCMC
Open every day from 7.30am-12pm / 1.30pm-5pm | Entry tickets are 30.000 VND ($1.80 AUD /$1.35 USD )
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2. Cu Chi Tunnels
It’s time to get dirty! Nah, just kidding! Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels won’t mess up your clothes, I promise. Although, be prepared to crawl through some narrow tunnels. It’s quite fascinating to discover how the Vietnamese soldiers built and lived in this underground real hive of activity.
About a 2-hour ride from Saigon, this open-air museum is located in the Cu Chi mangroves. There, you will learn more about the Vietnamese combat techniques as well as the soldiers’ daily life. Living underground in a network of tunnels of over 50 kms (about 30 miles), life wasn’t easy every day.
Cu Chi Tunnels – ấp Phú Hiệp, xã Phú Mỹ Hưng, huyện Củ Chi
Open every day from 7am-5pm | Entry tickets are 90.000 VND ($5.30 AUD /$4 USD)
Getting there by motorbike would take you about 2h / by bus 13 > 79 (1h30 for $0.70 AUD / $0.50 USD)
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3. Hoa Lo Prison
This place used to host the “enemies” of the French Indochina during the French colonial period. This museum shows how the Vietnamese prisoners were treated. Chained up by their ankles like animals, they were often asked to work for the French Empire. On the contrary, the capturedAmericain soldiers were allowed to smoke cigarettes, to play soccer or guitar.
It might creep you out to learn what Vietnamese people went through at that time ; to see how they were detained. I was so mad at the end of the visit to think that some human beings can do such a thing – aka torture, take advantage, capture and brutalise – some fellow beings. It is even more irritating when you know that these torturers come from your country i.e. from France. I just wanted to hide my nationality for some reason.
Hoa Lo Prison – 1 Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi
Open every day from 8am-5pm | Entry tickets are 30.000 VND ($1.80 AUD /$1.35 USD )
⛾ A unique cafe/museum in Da Nang
In Da Nang, I recently went to a unique cafe. Not only you can drink a pure Vietnamese coffee. But you can also discover a small exhibition about the Vietnam War. Called Memories : The Two Sides of the War, the cafe owner Binh is passionate of this period of Vietnam’s history.
His cafe showcases some radio communication items that were used during the war. Just hanged on a wood structure with no window, it gives you a unique museum experience. Discover some wireless radios as well as items from the Vietnamese & American soldiers’ daily life. Looking up, you will also see some helicopter models.
His exhibition is really special in the sense that the showcased items are not hidden behind a window. Binh wrote a short technical fact sheet for each item. However, he will be delighted to give you a tour of his mini-museum. He enjoys talking about the technical aspects of the radios from this period of time. He is the only one who can really explain how they worked and how they were used.
His Saigon-style ca phê is one of the best coffees I’ve had in Vietnam. Neither as sweet as usual, nor bitter, it is delightful. He is really serious about coffee. Indeed, he only uses pure coffee beans to make his coffees.
Binh’s Caphe is the ultimate spot to drink a real pure Vietnamese coffee. Moreover, it is not-to-be-missed if you want to know more about the Vietnamese war told by an expert in the subject.
Binh’s Caphe – 152 Duong Dinh Nghe street, Da Nang, Vietnam
Open from Monday to Sunday,from 7am-5pm
☞ More read
After having discovered Binh’s Caphe, I was curious to know if there are other cafe like his. Then, I Googled cafes where war items are showcased. Final result: there is He Caphe in Hue where Vietnamese war items are exposed. Find out more in this article.
There are so many more kinds of themed cafes to discover around the world. It’s crazy how people can be so creative even a bit weird sometimes. Some of the weirdest themed cafes are probably Japanese. That’s probably the reason why we like them.