Hanoi dormitory cafe harks back to bygone subsidy era
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Hidden in a Hanoi dormitory is a coffee shop that recreates an subsidy era ambience in detail, including the bumblebee yellow paint, furniture and floral-patterned cushions.
The Zum Coffee shop is located on the first floor of an old dormitory in a small alley at 110 C6 Vu Ngoc Phan Street, Dong Da District. The outside of the shop doesn’t look any different from many other dormitories. There is a small yard for trees right in front of the shop. The architecture of the building is almost unchanged.
To the left of the entrance is a counter walled by old wooden shutters. It also carries subsidy era artifacts like the television set.
The cafe owners cleared some walls to create a bigger space for the shop. The yellow painted wall is broken with patchy brick rifts to create a rustic, old world look.
Even the lighting adds to the shop’s subsidy era ambience. There is a space that is arranged just like a living room of that period, with a typical cupboard and a wooden salon set. Many decorations in the cafe are a throwback including peacock blanket covers, black and white TV, radio, and desk fans. Small peach branches and traditional square cake banh chung, and the Vietnamese distich evoke a traditional Lunar New Year (Tet) atmosphere of those times.
The wooden salon set with curvy armrests is a familiar image for those who grew up in Vietnam in the eighties. On the wall is the painting of a tailor shop as well as other services from that time.
A ‘Miss Thao Tailor’ corner hosts an antique iron and a Soviet sewing machine.
The next room is separated to others by a bamboo ridge wall, which was commonly used as a partition in old dormitories. Some of the indispensable subsidy period artifacts like a Vietnamese solider’s hat, a conical hat, a water canteen, a desk fan, and a phonograph are also part of the decorations.
LP covers and posters of famous bands among the youth then, including ABBA and Boney M, a cassette player and an old dart board.
On the walls of the cafe, there are many fun phrases of the period, including "Pressure pot on head, irons on feet; From faraway look like a ghost / Get close to know that he just got back from Russia."; "What makes a gentleman a gentleman / A cravat and a radio at belt."
The shop attracts people of all ages. The youth can discover an interesting side of Vietnamese history and the older ones can go on a trip down memory lane. Besides the usual beverages of tea, coffee, smoothies and juices, the cafe serves some unique dishes including the Thi No porridge, Mrs. Dau rice and Ba Kien rice, named after major characters in famous, old short stories. A cup of coffee costs VND25,000 ($1.1). The shop opens 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m everyday.