Snap Shot: Coffee and a Slice of History

A retro cafe in the heart of the city is just one reason verdant Dalat evokes the romance of old Vietnam.

Jan 6, 2017

Story and photograph by Morgan Ommer

The fast and furious development of Vietnam makes it ever more difficult to step back into the country’s past. Café Tung in Dalat is one fine exception. Back in 1912, the French established the fertile city as their favored hill station, a cool-climate retreat from Saigon, and this legacy has endured in grand boulevards, 2,000 colonial villas, and a culture of vineyards and cafés such as this one.

Formerly a hotbed for artists, intellectuals, poets and other bohemian types, the café is a remarkable snapshot in time. With its retro pleather upholstery and vintage pop-star posters, it looks more like a 1960s Parisian cellar than a coffee shop in Vietnam. It sounds more like it too—the playlist regularly features hits by the Ronettes, The Rolling Stones and Khanh Ly, Vietnam’s most famous entertainer of that era.

Nowadays the artists, young and old, are still there in the morning perusing the local newspapers. Join them over a ca phe sua nong (drip coffee with condensed milk) at this intersection of past and present.

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