I have finally discovered why travelers who come to Vietnam eventually return. It’s not the amazing water culture of the Mekong Delta, the allure of big city thrills in Ho Chi Minh City, or the peaceful lakes in Ha Noi. Nor is it the lighthearted nature of the locals or the rich modern history that has threaded itself into this nation’s fiber over the last century. I am now convinced that the real reason we come back to Vietnam is due to our crippling addiction to ca phe sua da.
You may call it Vietnamese coffee, iced coffee milk, or simply liquid cocaine. I’ll settle for referring to the Vietnamese staple as my siren, and for seven thousand Vietnam Dong per morning, my love affair with the sweet, powerful drink has taken on an entirely new meaning in Can Tho.
There is a woman who does business just a moment’s walk away from my new home. She offers to deliver by bicycle drinks of all sorts to my doorstep, but the only thing that I have had my mind on this week has been the rich aroma of her ca phe sua da and the complimentary tea that comes with every glass.
She makes it thicker than they make it in Ho Chi Minh City. I can almost swear that she uses one half of a can of condensed milk as the base for each of my drinks, but part of me refuses to look at the woman completely as she prepares my guilty pleasure. After all, ignorance is bliss, and on the terrace of my new sanctuary, where I enjoy my ca phe sua da every morning, there is only enough room for my body and the rich, intoxicating smell of Vietnamese coffee.
This evening my coffee lady asked me how long I would stay in Can Tho. Although I will be here longer, I told her that my stay would last another six months. She could barely contain her joy and I don’t blame her for it; I would also be psyched if the goods I peddle made women and men alike weak at the knees.
I truly wish that this entire story as it relates to my love for ca phe sua da was over-embellished, but alas, it is not. If apple pie is as American as red, white, and blue, then consider my newest addiction to ca phe sua da as Vietnamese as I will ever be.