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Take a trip to old Saigon at this café

Take a trip to old Saigon at this café

Sunday, March 06, 2022, 17:04 GMT+7
Take a trip to old Saigon at this café
A corner brings back the vibe of old Saigon at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Nestled in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, a coffee shop in Phu Nhuan District has become a hub for local history buffs thanks to the thousands of artifacts lining its walls.

Donning a do ba ba – a traditional outfit worn by people in the Mekong Delta – Huynh Minh Hiep, the owner of Lua Saigon, a café at 140B Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District, spends his days chatting with customers about the history of each piece on display at his coffee shop.

Hiep has spent nearly three decades collecting antiques and artifacts, mostly pieces related to the culture of southern Vietnam, and putting them on view in his shop.

A corner at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A corner at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

His collection of artifacts, which now boasts nearly 10,000 pieces, began with coins he sourced from countries around the world.

“During my trips [to collect the coins], I realized that I had a strong interest in antiques,’ he shared.

“I was born in southern Vietnam and I really want to preserve the local cultural values.

“Society is becoming more and more modern, so our old values are fading away."

To Hiep, such preservation means holding on to as much of the past as he can.

“Some collectors offered to buy my 1938 Motobecane AB1 for hundreds of millions of dong, but I turned them down,” Hiep shared. (US$1 = VND22,980)

“This is my passion.

"It’s something that is meaningful for society so I feel that it’s my responsibility to protect it.”

Huynh Minh Hiep, the owner of Lua Saigon café, poses with his 1938 Motobecane AB1 at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Huynh Minh Hiep, the owner of Lua Saigon Café, poses with his 1938 Motobecane AB1 in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Hiep decided to open his café when his collection became so large that he felt the public deserved to bask in the nostalgia of old Saigon, the former name of Ho Chi Minh City. 

“There is a story behind every artifact about how I collected it, and each one has become a part of my life,” he said

“I always give a detailed explanation when people ask me about a piece.”

Hoang Nghia, a regular customer of Lua Saigon, often visits the café with his wife. Together, they enjoy the classic tunes that play on the venue’s speakers.

“I love this place because it reminds me of spending time with my parents and grandparents,” Nghia said.

Meanwhile, Ngoc Thao, a resident from District 1, shared that she was stunned by Hiep’s collection of old banknotes and movie posters.

Hiep’s collection has won him several titles, including recognition for owning the most movie posters, documents, and artifacts relating to Vietnamese cai luong (southern folk music and stage performance) before 1975 (the year when Vietnam was reunified), the largest collection of world currencies in Vietnam, and more.

Hiep points to a poster and photos from the 1973 film “Con Ma Nha Ho Hua” (The ghost of the Hua family) at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Huynh Minh Hiep points to a poster and photos from the 1973 film 'Con Ma Nha Ho Hua' (The Ghost of the Hua Family) at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Huynh Minh Hiep poses with certificates recognizing the depth of his antique collection at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Huynh Minh Hiep poses with certificates recognizing his antique collection at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

In the future, Hiep plans to open a private museum where he hopes to preserve more artifacts and antiques of Saigon.

A pre-1975 beverage cart on display at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A pre-1975 beverage cart on display at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Minh Quan, a staff member at Lua Saigon, prepares an old record player at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Minh Quan, a staff member at Lua Saigon Café, prepares an old record player in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A corner at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A corner at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Old artifacts at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Old artifacts at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A set of vintage dishes Hiep collected from a house in the Mekong Delta at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A set of vintage dishes Huynh Minh Hiep collected from a house in the Mekong Delta at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Lua Sai Gon café also serves drinks and snacks which were popular in the 80s and 90s. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Lua Sai Gon Café also serves drinks and snacks which were popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Drinks which were popular in the 80s and 90s on display at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Drinks which were popular in the 1980s and 1990s on display at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A collection of old banknotes at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A collection of old banknotes at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A corner at Lua Sai Gon café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

A corner at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

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Hoang An - Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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