May, 24 2012 11:08:33

Cafe captures historic flavour

by Cong Thanh


Ostentatious: A marble arched bridge connects the gate to the main building and garden at the Ancient Time Cafe. — VNS Photo Hoai Nam
DA NANG — The Ancient Time Cafe in downtown Da Nang has become a popular destination for tourists since it opened last year.

The 5,000sq.m cafe on Dien Bien Phu Street boast old-style architecture and a collection of various antiques.

The owner Tu Anh intended the cafe's design to reflect life in the north, centre and south of Viet Nam over the centuries.

Originally a garden, the cafe was built over a four-year period and now amazes visitors with its tall timber gate and a 20m-high wall, covered with pieces of jars and clay tiles.

Anh said the cafe greeted around 300 tourists and gourmets each day during the summer holidays.

A marble arched bridge connects the gate to the main building and the garden. Its handrails have been carved to resemble dragons, an art form from the nearby stone village of Non Nuoc.

"I originally wanted to create a cafe and garden space where I could rest on weekends, but my friends suggested that I open it to the public. Now the cafe is not only a place to sip coffee and relax, but it also has a restaurant and bar open 24 hours a day," said Anh.

"All the buildings were constructed from the 16th- and 17th-century Vietnamese homes, including the popular nha ruong (garden houses) from Hue. We collected architectural pieces from local residents and set them up in the cafe like a small museum."

The owner said 12 of the buildings were the houses of royal mandarins who lived centuries ago.

"My husband and I have travelled through villages from north to south and collected around 100 antiques to display in these buildings, so visitors can get a sense of Vietnamese life and history in the cafe," the host said.

According to Anh, the cafe also displays 200-year-old jars, pots and a 500-year-old cycas, the second oldest tree of its kind in Viet Nam.

The cafe designers also replicated the country's natural landscape in miniature, including waterfalls, streams, mountains and forests.

All 12 buildings are timber constructions, while the rooms are decorated with pearl or gemstone inlaid panels.

"We wanted to restore the architecture of the imperial city of Hue. Time has gone by and the old buildings are all that remains of this historic period for future generation," said cafe manager Anh Quoc.

"We reserved a ‘gourmet corner' which looks like the Old Quarter of Ha Noi and old Hoi An City. Connoisseurs can feel like they are in Ha Noi and Hoi An while enjoying local specialities."

"The cafe is an ideal rendezvous for me and my friends on the weekend. It's really more like a small museum than a cafe, because it reminds visitors of the houses and antiques of old Viet Nam," said regular patron Hoang Thi Khanh Hoi.

The cafe can host around 1,500 visitors at a time and has been included in city tours by several travel agencies. — VNS

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