by Ha Nguyen
|Oasis of calm: Tungbook Cafe offers customers a quiet space to read, study or just catch up with friends. — VNS Photos Truong Vi
|Quiet reflection: Students are regular visitors to the cafe, which is as much a library as a juice bar.
Address: 62 Thai Thinh II Street, Dong Da District, Ha Noi
Tel: 04-35190496/ 091 856 8833
Hours: 9am - 10pm
Price: VND18,000-50,000 (US$0.8-2.4)
Comment: Quiet and cultural place for coffee drinkers reading books.
Last week, while taking my Korean friend Ko Eun-na on a tour around Ha Noi's inner city, we stopped off at Tungbook Cafe.
The cafe immediately impressed us with its gravel path lined with small green bamboo trees, its harmonious design, its displays of processed coffee and different kinds of juice as well as a second and third floor for drinkers and readers.
Ko said she is really interested in the cafe's space and its design. "I like the way the cafe owner has spread around carpets and books along both sides of the stairs."
"We have thousands of books ranging from literature, scientific research and cooking to foreign languages," said cafe owner Nguyen Dinh Tung, who added that the books were part of his family's collection and did a great job in luring customers.
He said his shop is aimed at those who like coffee and books. "Our cafe is a cultural place for them."
I intended to choose an English book to read, but Ko suggested we continue exploring the interior, fitted with brown wooden tables and buffers between the bookshelves.
Ko commented on the neon lights hidden in square bamboo shade boxes covered in Han calligraphy.
We both liked the ceramic pictures, pots and tinny statues on the walls.
Tung said that if you do not like reading, you could indulge in a game of chess, bet on horses or play guitar.
The cafe's menu is written on joined bamboo pieces covered with paper, making it look like an ancient petition.
When questioned about what to have, Tung recommended we try the hot chocolate and hot coconut juice with fruit or different kinds of cake.
We decided to order one pot for two at a price of VND100,000.
"It's rather strange, but tasty and delicious," we agreed.
Other drinks include seasonal fruit juices ranging from VND18,000 to VND50,000 while a cup of coffee is VND25,000.
Most customers order coffee and read a book however, the owner said.
Hoang Minh, a young teacher from the Ha Noi University, said it was not easy to find a comfortable place to read.
"My friends and I often come here to drink coffee and read a book after work because sitting in a book cafe you can find yourself in a different world, far from the noise and dusty air of the streets. Customers can have the chance to enjoy a quiet and peaceful space while they lose themselves in a good book," Minh said.
Ko said Tungbook is one of the most interesting places that she has enjoyed. She will ask her Korean friends to come here to drink coffee and read books.
"You can even take out a book on loan from as little as VND1,000 and VND2,000," the shop owner told us. — VNS