During a Hue evening stroll, we happened to walk by Mandarin Cafe near the Google Hotel and were immediately invited in by Mr. Cu, the friendly owner. As soon as we entered, we realized this was no ordinary cafe.
Mandarin is a restaurant and photo gallery rolled into one. Dozens of photographs adorn the walls giving visitors an intimate look into everyday Vietnamese life. There was a hilarious photo of old twin sisters clad in polka-dot outfits and conical hats squatting side by side. Their facial expressions and even the way they positioned their feet were exactly the same. Colorful landscapes and black-and-white portraits told the story of Hue as we made your way to the table. As we sat down, a wrinkled face flashed a toothless smile.
A few of the photos looked as though they were decades old. But it turned out, Mr. Cu started photographing only 15 years ago. Being a local photographer with personal access to the people, he’s been very successful in capturing intimate, honest moments like the one of two crying women clinging to each other. He definitely holds an advantage over any outside photographer, and it shows.
Proud of his accomplishments, he presented us with several bound volumes of beautiful photography. We sat for over an hour looking at each and every photo which provided us with much inspiration for our own photography. At the end, Mr. Cu handed us some postcards as a thank you for simply being interested in his work. Great photography AND great banana pancakes – it can’t get better than that.
Make sure to visit Mandarin Cafe or check out Mr. Cu’s amazing photo gallery of life in and around Hue.