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 family in the photo is fishing in the Bassac River as is flows through Châu Đốc, a Vietnamese city of about 160,000 people on the country’s border with Cambodia. These are ethnic Cham people who live in a village built on the water – the houses in the photo are part of the village. For close to 1000 years Cham kingdoms controlled much of what is today central and southern Vietnam. As ethnic Vietnamese expanded south from the Red River area around Hanoi – the original home of Vietnamese civilization – there was both interaction and conflict between the Cham and the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese eventually prevailed, destroying the last Cham kingdom and assimilating the Cham people into the rather complicated ethnic mix that today makes up the population of modern Vietnam.