"More pigs in the pen means more fertilizer for the fields," proclaims one propaganda poster. The caption of another says, "Cho Dai Dot Dung Den Dat Nuoc Nay (It would be folly to attack this country. Do so at your peril)." A woman warrier is brandishing a rifle in the latter. Black and white war-era photographs are pinned to canvas. Old army kitbags hang on the white washed walls. Soiled white T-shirts are strung starkly against one wall painted army green. The light is coming down framed in tin petrol funnels, ingeniously refashioned as light fittings.
Sturdy wooden antique chairs and tables furnish the shiny concrete floor. On shelves up high, dusty Vietnamese translations of works by Lenin are juxtaposed alongside the flashing green lights of modems and wifi routers bringing in the philosophies of the world. French realist writer Balzac is also represented. Mao Zedong is there too, on the wall, taking his people along on the Great Leap Forward. The Rolling Stones' album Aftermath is softly filtering through the speakers. The fans are whirring and the staff are slumped, slightly aloof, dreaming.
The bitter dark chocolate of the coffee, sourced from Buon Ma Thuot and "made according to specifications by Cong Caphe", is more complex than the standard Hanoi brew and the avocado fruit blend is thick and viscous up the straw. Both are expensive.
And the staff know and I know that ambience in a coffee shop sometimes comes at a handsome price.
Cafe den da (iced black), bo sinh to (avocado fruit blend) - 50,000VND (USD$2.65, AUD$2.90)
152b Trieu Viet Vuong
Hai Ba Trung District