Archives for the month of: June, 2012

I gaze at fishermen and merchants on Hoai river, their diesel engines chugging away, commuting to and from the market. U Cafe Hoi An has a modest dock across the riverside walk, made out of four bamboo poles and a plank of wood, built and used by our duck-farming neighbour. The cafe does not have a boat.

The river also shows a trashy side of lives in Hoi An, carrying various market debris like chunks of pineapple and polystyrene packaging. Among them at the dock this morning was a boat-shaped bamboo basket. Just big enough to carry a child and maybe a dog, the boat-basket arrived with a broken hull, looking weatherworn and slightly lost. Maybe the child grew too old to play with it on the river and the basket was replaced by a fluorescent plastic toy.

Drifting down the Hoai, the bamboo-wreck found its new owner. It carries casually the reuse-recycle ideals and combines with the connections people have with the river. It could become the cafe mascot and create small ripples in cleaning the Hoi An water. It could go a long way.


A duck lays in the cafe kitchen. It arrived yesterday – unexpected, feathered and gutted.

I was out fishing with my neighbour the previous day. He would set his net carefully into the water near Tra Que, among rice fields, dragonflies and a man sitting on his bufallo. Then he would light a cigarette, and we made splashes and noise to scare the fish into the net. He taught me how to count in Vietnamese as we untangled our catch one after another (My knowledge of numbers in the language increased considerably, from the một-hai-ba I learnt raising glasses of warm bia). He kept five for his family and insisted I keep the other 57 we caught that day.

The following day, his mother visited the cafe, carrying the freshly prepared duck in a pink plastic bag. The family has been busy with the approaching festival and the duck population is now down to seven.

This is how the duck arrived, the day before Tet Đoan Ngo. The duck did not spare us the time for us to find a recipe first, but the special gift is now in fresh orange juice and spices. I hope you’ve had a good Tết Đoan Ngọ too.

Day and night, the ducks arrive at the small farm next door, in bags and baskets on mopeds. They are shy and confused when they first walk into the farm, but soon get comfortable mingling with the dogs and quacking with the rest.

Sometimes there are more than one hundred ducks. Then slowly the number reduces, as they are delivered to the market as fresh meat and blood. I have not seen the slaughtering process which usually begins around 3am – apart from on those days prohibited according to the lunar calendar and Buddhist traditions – but according to a friend it is quick with the veins of the neck.

U Cafe does not serve ducks on the menu, and our guests can only enjoy the chorus of quacks drifting through the bamboo leaves at this point. We may come across a tasty local recipe and create a new dish, but until that day, the ducks should have no worries when I look down from the cafe window.

Five Japanese Starters – 5  loại món ăn Nhật – could start off your meals at U Café Hội An. After taro croquettes or glass noodle salad you might decide to wrap up your evening with Quang Nam seasonal fruits, with a shot of purple rice wine Hong Dao.

U Café Hội An is updating its menu and have added a selection of photos on the cafe Facebook page. You can see a small part of what the cafe offers, ranging from Bánh mì baguettes, variety of Vietnamese Japanese fusion dishes, salads, deserts and drinks.

Leave the tourist hustle behind, pop in for a coffee and feel the breeze of Hoai. Let the bird songs and goldfish plops of the lotus pond soothe your soul, perhaps alongside a glass of cold Biere Larue.

At U Cafe Hoi An we use bio-filtering system for our water disposal. All of our water output is purified through the filtering tank (which has 28000 empty Yakult bottles inside to breed bacteria), fed into the lotus and goldfish ponds on the ground, first and second floors of the Cafe, and flows into the river Hoai.

With no public sewer system and Unesco World Heritage related restrictions, the old Hoi An centre sees little alternative to water disposal, pouring polluted water straight into the river. In return for preservation of the ancient houses and townscapes, residents struggle to renew or implement individual sewer system without changing the structure of their houses.

We measure water quality of our ponds and the river Hoai to monitor and see how much more we can do. There are other projects that tackle the water pollution issues too. These are our first small steps and paddles to clean the water in Hoi An.

Cycling through the old centre of Hoi An, he was told by a gift shop owner about the Cafe.

Eating taro croquettes and kakigori he shared with us his road trip experiences, which on average covers 90km a day, his desire to tackle the scenic Hai Van Pass, and the changing dialects of Vietnamese as he travelled northbound.

For shopping at the market to prepare for his trip to Da Nang the following day, he pedaled away into the evening Haoi breeze.

Welcome to the U Cafe Hoi An blog!

U Cafe has just had its first anniversary on 1st June and we are now developing our food and drinks menu for the new season, with lots of local and organic produce.

We’ll be posting news, projects and events about U Cafe and sustainable community development based in Hoi An and Da Nang. You can check our Facebook page too:

Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in sustainable development and environmental issues, and want to get involved. We’d love to hear what you think.