Portrait of a Hoi An Barista

I do not envy this boy his job as a barista for Cộng Cà phê (Cong Coffee) – he is definitely underpaid and, at best, treated with indifference by his employer. Cộng Cà phê is a Hanoi-based chain that has outlets nationwide these days. As the boy’s work outfit suggests, Cộng Cà phê serves up a halcyon-days-of-war-and-hardcore-communism ambience for upmarket customers to bask in while sipping their coconut coffee. In fact “cộng” is one of the words combined with other words to mean “communism,” “communist,” and “communist party” in Vietnamese. It seems to have taken on this meaning because it sounds virtually identical to the Chinese character that combines with other characters to mean the same things in Chinese. In fairness, Cộng Cà phê serves up decent coffee and drinks.


The Archbishop’s Door, Hue

This beautifully carved wooden doorway is the entrance to the residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hue. The image shows just a section of the double doors of the house inside the residential compound. I saw the door from the street, the gate was open, and I wondered inside to take a photo, having no idea at the time what the building was. A groundskeeper appeared quickly to inform me where I was. He was very friendly, we spoke for a moment, I took several photos and left. The door is a magnificent piece of woodworking.

Curious, I looked around online. The Archdiocese of Hue includes the city of Hue and surrounding countryside. It serves around 67,000 Catholics, a little over 3% of the local population. I was surprised to learn that only some 7% of Vietnamese are Catholic, I had thought that figure was somewhere between 10% and 15%.

The current archbishop, Joseph Nguyễn Chí Linh, took his position in Hue in 2016. Born in the north of the country, as a boy he fled with his family from communist controlled northern Vietnam to southern Vietnam in the 1950s after French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh and the country was divided. He received his training in Vietnam and later earned a doctorate of philosophy from the Catholic University of Paris. Before moving to Hue, he was appointed bishop of Thanh Hoa, the province of his birth, by Pope John Paul II. He is now 73 years old. Alas, he did not invite me in for coffee when I meandered into his front yard.


Buddhism with Vietnamese Characteristics, Da Nang

The Buu Dai Son Pagoda (Chùa Bửu Đài Sơn) is one of my favorites in the Da Nang / Hoi An area. It sits facing the sea (my back is to the beach and the East Sea) several kilometers from downtown Da Nang on the seaside road heading to the Son Tra peninsula. Like many Buddhist sites in Southeast Asia, Buu Dai Son is garish and colorful, in this case in a distinctly Vietnamese way. I looked but could not find the date this pagoda was founded or the date its current structures were built, though I have no doubt the buildings are of recent origin. At the same time, there is no question that the designer was inspired by historical sites like the Eastern Guard Tower in Hue and numerous other traditional Vietnamese structures, both religious and secular in origin, scattered throughout the country.


The Stele Pavilion, Tu Duc’s Tomb, Hue, Vietnam

A few tree and shrub species shed their leaves in what passes for winter in central Vietnam. This photo was shot in December of 2018, and I like how the barren trees in the foreground set off the Stele Pavilion in the center of the image. Another shot of the stele close up appears in my previous post. This structure is one of the key buildings in the Tu Duc Mausoleum area. There is a massive stone tablet inside, on which the emperor’s biography is written. Although Tu Duc had many wives, he was also childless; a case of smallpox left him impotent. In the event, the biography inscribed on the stele was written by Tu Duc himself and this was considered a bad omen for the dynasty. After Tu Duc’s death in 1883, the Nguyen throne passed to an adopted son.


The Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, Hue

The season is right, but this photo of a shrine within the mausoleum’s extensive grounds was actually taken four years ago in 2018 – wow, time flies. The compound where the Nguyen dynasty emperor Tu Duc (1848-1883) was laid to rest is one of several imperial mausoleums surrounding Hue, the only one I have visited to date. I took a series of photos that have been sitting in a file directory ever since. Taking a look now.

Hue was the capital city of the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam’s final dynasty that came to an end in 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated. The city is a fascinating place featuring cultural, historical and religious sites, great food, an incomprehensible local dialect, and photo opportunities at every turn. More visits to Hue are in order.