My aunty says she can't even say the word coffee after 11 am. Lots of folk I know have strict limits about when they consume coffee, particularly once the sun goes down. At night, suddenly caffeine becomes the enemy. I've never actually worried about it.
Until the other night when I hit this coffee spot just up from my local market. I think I eventually got to sleep at 5am and the alarm went off 45 minutes later. And I have to say that even though my days of recreational drug use were over long ago, this shop's cafe den da (iced black coffee) gave me one funky trip.
Thrashing about tangled in the sheets, trying to count sheep and getting up towards 1000 several times, thinking that it might be better if I counted animals that are actually prevalent in Vietnam, trying to flush the system out with water then the pacing up and back to the bathroom...all that in addition to the racing thoughts of how I would cope at work the next day and must get to sleep, must get to sleep, must get to sleep...and the looking at the clock, how many times did I do that!
It was verging on a psychotic episode and a very clear reminder that what's in that there glass of black liquid is indeed a drug.
I've been back since to take another hit. A day-time dose. And to admire the style of the place, which is quirky old world, with fading shuttered doors, bamboo lampshades and birdcages hanging under the outside awning and a nice exhibition of commie propaganda posters nicely framed and stark against the clean white walls inside.
Chinese chess boards also hang on the walls and classical music comes lightly through the air waves. The young proprietor treads lightly, too, going about his operation in a courteous and soft-spoken manner. When I go to pay with a slightly flawed big bill (always problematic in Vietnam), he generously tells me not to worry, that I can pay next time.
He's only encountered me twice.
I like him. I like his cafe. I like his coffee.
Just not at night.
76 Nghi Tam
Tay Ho District