Pho Co Cafe - The cafe at the end of the universe

Main area of the cafe. The central area of the Pho Co Cafe Its not good to be too enthusiastic about places, popularity usually kills them. However, few people like what I like, so...
On the old market square in Đồng Văn town sits the Pho Co Cafe, like other buildings of its date it has an open central court around which, on two floors, the customers can sit. At night, clouds permitting, the view upwards of the myriad stars glittering in the clear air - we are above 800m - is enchanting. It is a very special place.
The outside of the cafe. The cafe sits at the top of the market, a simple two story building The karst above the cafe. The karst is in view above the central well of the building The road to the cafe. The market halls line the road to the cafe Neighbouring houses. Along from the cafe, under the karst, stretch a line of older houses The karst in central Dong Van. Above the market area sits the karst, some two hundred feet high Cafe sign. The market outside the cafe. The market transforms the quiet corner Western style furniture. These two image show how the entrance area of the cafe is laid out with western style chairs and tables The name as written is cryptic. Lacking marks there are 9 possible words covered by Pho (these English letters) and 15 by Co, and each of these 135 epithets has, like English, ambiguity in that words may have multiple meanings. Locals passing will most likely read it as 'The Old Quarter Cafe'. But I like something along the lines of 'Support for the Lonely Cafe', whatever our choice, the rich ambiguity intended here is, as ever, lost in translation. More western style furniture. Main area of cafe. The central area of the cafe looking back at the door to the market Inner room of ground floor. The inner room on the ground floor offers chairs and tables of traditional height The cafe offers areas arranged in three ways: near the entrance it is western in style; at the back, Vietnamese furnishings are provided - low stools and tables; and upstairs guests are seated on the floor. Calligraphy on pillar.

The balustrades, carvings and calligraphy all contribute to the air of a small 'palace' like the one 20 kilometres to the east of here - on which more in future pages
Balustrade and carving. View from balcony. The inner room, balcony and roofs. The three steps up to the inner room are demanded by convention - we might think of the idea as part of a system of feng shui In Vietnam urbanites sit at tables like Westerners, but for special meals or occasions (or just for atmosphere) the floor wins. Sitting as their parents sat down to meals cross legged, with nowhere to fall, is still a sign of celebration. These soft mats are a luxury not always found in private houses! More about this on the next page. Places set on floor. Around the balcony are placed, at discreet intervals, floor settings Main gallery floor settings. The places are set with candles which, together with the lanterns, and sometimes supplemented by the moon and stars, top off the enchantment The next page makes a detour to see something more of the tradition of sitting down, really down, to eat. After that comes a page on the Bắc Hà market. And then, after that, there is a return to Đồng Văn, and a visit to the palace on which the architectural style, seen in the cafe on this page, was modelled. Family meal. line
Saturday 29th October 2016 Murphy on duty

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