Hanoian Cafes

Almost every street has a cafe, offering wifi internet access, coffee, a place to sit, free tea, and snacks. The quality of those items varies distinctly, from a tiny broken stool next to a tin, wood-fired cart in front of a barista with a cell phone to three story buildings with uniquely styled rooms, from floor seating to bar stools by a glass window with a glass bar. The coffee’s strength remains high in any of these locations. The Hanoian “Vietnamese coffee is so good” according to a Russian teacher who invited me to his home on my second day there.

It is good if you like very strong coffee, so bitter that it wakes up the drinker long before the caffeine hits the brain or the stomach acid starts working on the inner guts of an unsuspecting foreign customer. The societal structure of the coffee shops seems often to be turned on its head. Some of the wealthiest people operate the most primitively styled shops, bearing teeth without gums, smoking and shouting at their relatives to welcome the latest oddity walking down the street. The most expensive shops don’t always offer the personal advice found on the street, but they do provide a warm place to sit, English proficient staff, and sometimes a wifi connection that allows blogging, with sufficient speeds for downloads and uploads of media-rich content.

For the intentionally decaffeinated, there’s not much to drink, other than beer, or a thick, almost spicy sake. The Chilean red wines, and Russian champagnes can be purchased everywhere, on the locally populated streets. The coffee shops often serve just hot water with lemon, but don’t try the mint or flavored tea if you don’t want it to include black ceylon tea. The individual cafes are so common that it’s pointless to try to find one on the internet; a walk around a block will force


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