Bringing the ethnic northwest to the heart of Saigon

By Quynh Tran    November 30, 2020 | 06:05 pm GMT+7
The unique decor of a Saigon cafe inspired by the customs and cultures of the Thai, Tay and H’mong ethnic people transports you to the northwestern mountains.
NAME? on Vu Huy Tan Street in Binh Thanh District sprawls over 200 square meters in size. Le Thi Hang, the owner of NAME?, says: I was not born in the northwestern region. But, since I lived and worked there for two decades, the region has a special place in my heart and I wanted to bring this part of me to the cafe. At the entrance are rows of golden corn hanging to dry from the ceiling. This is a custom among many ethnic groups in the northwestern region, who hang not only corn but also wheat, barley, grains, and other harvests from the ceiling.

The cafe, named 'Nha cua Mi', at 110 Vu Huy Tan Street in Binh Thanh District sprawls over 200 square meters in size. At the entrance are rows of golden corn hanging to dry from the ceiling. This is a custom among many ethnic groups in Vietnam's northwestern region, who hang not only corn but also wheat, barley, grains, and other harvests from the ceiling.
Its owner Le Thi Hang says: "I was not born in the northwestern region. But, since I lived and worked there for two decades, the locality has a special place in my heart and I wanted to bring this part of me to the cafe."
"Nha cua Mi" means "House of Mi", name of a major character in "Vo chong A Phu", a well-known book written in 1952 by To Hoai about the northwestern region's people.

Around 500 dried cobs of corn are bought from ethnic communities in the northwestern mountains to hang on wooden pillars. Trusses, poles and handrails are made of wood to mimic the traditional communal homes of the Thai, Tay and H’mong people.

Around 500 dried cobs of corn were bought from ethnic communities in the northwestern mountains to hang on wooden pillars.
Trusses, poles and handrails are made of wood to mimic the traditional communal homes of the Thai, Tay and H’mong people.

Artistic, colorful portraits of the northwestern region’s ethnic people in traditional costumes hang on the walls throughout the cafe.

Artistic, colorful portraits of the northwestern region’s ethnic people in traditional costumes hang on the walls throughout the cafe.

A painting of a majestic mountain range in the region adorns one of the walls. Pots of brilliant vermillion crane flowers give the cafe an extra touch of the mountains.

A painting of a majestic mountain range in the region adorns one of the walls.
Pots of plastic vermillion crane flowers give the cafe an extra touch of the mountains.

The first floor has an air-conditioned room with large tables that is suitable for group meetings. The chairs have cushions covered in ethnic brocade patterns.

The first floor has an air-conditioned room with large tables that is suitable for group meetings. The chairs have cushions covered in ethnic brocade patterns.

Lamps shades are made of bamboo (looks like cane!!), a common material used to make household items in the northwest.

Lamps shades are made of bamboo, a common material used to make household items in the northwest.

Brocade patterns are ubiquitous in the cafe, appearing in various items of decor.Each ethnic culture has a distinct style of brocade quilting, the owner explains. The patterns are usually symmetrical and balanced designs that symbolize the perpetual harmony of nature and yin-yang.

Brocade patterns are ubiquitous in the cafe, appearing in various items of decor.
"Each ethnic culture has a distinct style of brocade quilting," the owner explains. "The patterns are usually symmetrical and balanced designs that symbolize the perpetual harmony of nature and yin-yang."

Decorative globes made in ethnic patterns decorate a shelf.

Decorative globes made in ethnic patterns decorate a shelf.

Another fun feature is that guests can borrow ethnic costumes for free to take pictures. Thanh Tu, 25, of Phu Nhuan District is all smiles in a Xa Pho garment and accessories as she takes a selfie with a friend who opted for a Hmong costume.She says: I really like the cafe for its tranquil ambiance and northwest-inspired décor. I am most impressed by the beautiful paintings which look simple yet sincere (when is a painting ‘sincere’? J).

Another fun feature is that guests can borrow ethnic costumes for free to take pictures.
Thanh Tu, 25, of Phu Nhuan District is all smiles in a Xa Pho garment and accessories as she takes a selfie with a friend who opted for a H'mong costume.
She says: "I really like the cafe for its tranquil ambiance and northwest-inspired decor. I am most impressed by the beautiful paintings which look simple yet it is like they have a soul."

The staff are also decked out in ethnic costumes. A waitress wears a traditional embroidered H’mong hat (also her shirt?).

The staff are also decked out in ethnic costumes. In the picture, a waitress wears a traditional embroidered H’mong hat and shirt.

Beverages start at VND35,000 ($1.52) and the menu has unique homemade drinks like Chinese date tea with goji berries and chia seeds. Another popular bestseller is egg coffee served with slices of bread.

Beverages start at VND35,000 ($1.52) and the menu has unique homemade drinks like Chinese date tea with goji berries and chia seeds. Another popular bestseller is egg coffee served with slices of bread.

The cafe is situated at 110 Vu Huy Tan Street in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by almond trees. It has 150 overs, and opens from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. It is most crowded in the mornings and during weekends.

The cafe is situated in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by almond trees. It has 150 covers, and opens from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. It is most crowded in the mornings and during weekends.

 
 
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