Caffeine injections are a dong a dozen in Hanoi. Cafes abound in numbers that rival pho stalls and, while I've sipped on this black liquid drug in coffee dens all over town, I do eventually return to my favourite.
When I can get in!
Cafe Nang is a bit of an institution in the capital. These days, particularly on the weekend, a berth in this Hang Bac establishment is proving elusive, even upstairs deep in the back stalls where choking on second-hand Vinataba is part of the 'cultural experience'.
A granny with a face kind enough to melt the hardest heart runs the show, her fingers ingrained with more than 40 years of coffee handling. Unlike me, she absorbs her caffeine via the pores of her skin and the aroma in the air. It ain't doing her any harm. She's recently made a grab for a further slice of Trung Nguyen's pie.
Cafe Nang has expanded. A cool, airy cave within spitting distance of the Hang Da market houses granny's new venture. A flat screen TV adorns the back wall and a funky mezzanine runs along the right wall.
But the new Nang is not posh. The atmosphere is different - good different! I like less Vinataba in the air, slightly taller wooden stools and less coffee swillers per square metre. And while granny's kind dial doesn't greet me here, her fine coffee still does.
One iced black coffee, one fresh passionfruit juice - 13,000VND (USD80c, AUD85c)
22 Duong Thanh
(other branches located at 6 Hang Bac, 47 Tran Hung Dao and 129 Trieu Viet Vuong)