Coffee and a slice of history

April 16, 2007

Sunday, May. 01, 2005

Vietnam’s relentless modernization means there are increasingly fewer opportunities to step back into the country’s past. But the splendid Café Tung is an exception. With its retro skai-covered sofas and Jacques Brel posters, it looks more like a 1960s Parisian cellar than a coffee shop in the present-day Central Highlands town of Dalat. Not that there are any complaints from the clientele, who comprise a fair slice of Dalat’s artists and intellectuals (the town is Vietnam’s pre-eminent bohemian enclave).

From early morning, they gather to read the papers and suck down potent glasses of ca phe sua da — espresso served over ice and sweetened with condensed milk — while listening to music coming out of antiquated speakers (it might be by the Ronettes, the Rolling Stones or Khan Ly, Vietnam’s most celebrated diva and a Café Tung regular in the 1960s). “I’m keeping it this way because it has worked for nearly 50 years,” says proprietor Tung Dinh Tran, who opened the café in 1959 but has now handed over the management of it to his son. With a bit of luck, it will work for the next 50, too. tel: (84-63) 821 390

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