We’ve circled the Old Quarters thrice and always came back to the rotunda beside the Hoan Kiem Lake to see the flow of traffic in the late afternoon. Finally, after watching the Thang Long water puppet show on a Monday, we plopped ourselves in the fourth floor of the Cong Caphe, enjoyed our local coffee, with what I think was the best view in the whole of Hanoi.
Of course, there are many lovely views in Hanoi. But I think the view at Cong Caphe’s Cau Go branch is the best one for me in Hanoi. Why? Because Joel and I found the traffic situation in the Hoan Kiem lake rotunda fascinating. We loved observing how the Vietnamese seemed to be so chaotic and disorderly at first glance but are in fact so in tune with each other, looking out left and right without moving their heads, so that they move together in unison, and the chaos just disintegrates in seconds. We also loved observing how the eyes of foreign tourists are so wide in disbelief, almost having a heart attack when they find themselves in the midst of the chaotic traffic, for fear of getting hit.
That, and the fact that Cong Ca Phe has good coffee and an extensive menu of drinks (in comparison to other cafes in Hanoi), and is decorated in “communist-era chic” (if there is such a term) complete with guerrilla outfit for the staff. The cafe, while in the midst of the action in Hanoi (being in the Old Quarter), was surprisingly not crowded at that time of the day (4PM) and most of the people there were locals, with the foreigners, including us, sitting at the balcony, giggling over the traffic situation.
Be warned though, that just like most of the local cafes in Vietnam, Cong Ca Phe does not regularly have breads and pastries available. When we went there, the only think available for eating is the little mung bean cake. The mini cakes (a powdery kind of cake, much like the Pinoy polvoron) was new to me. I thought it was an unusual pairing for the coffee, but we actually ate all of the them while enjoying the view of the traffic and the slowly setting of the golden sun.
P.S. Cong Ca Phe is also in Hoi An and Saigon, and in other parts of Hanoi. And, I must say their branches are located in places good for people watching!