It’s with an equal measure of reluctance and excitement that we reveal Cuoi Ngo, one of our most alluring hideaway spots that seemingly occupies another dimension.
Cuối Ngõ translates as ‘the end of the lane’ but if you manage to find this phenomenal place then you can congratulate yourself on locating the end of the world. Any city map will tell you that Hanoi actually continues west for several dreary kilometers so its hard to say what makes this place feel like the final destination. Perhaps its because you have to turn off your motorbike before pushing it under the dilapidated gate, which has a ‘crossing the River Styx’ feeling about it.
An ancient women clad in silk pajamas stands in the verdant garden, her hands rest behind her hunched back as she ignores us completely.
‘Wow! How old is this building bà ơi?’ We ask.
‘Don’t know. Very old.’ She replies before getting back to the apparently more pressing issue of staring at nothing at all.
Well, that’s settled then. Perhaps nobody knows how old the house is but it certainly looks ancient even if it actually isn’t. Entering inside is more bizarre still, as the darkened walls are beautified with even darker pieces of art while several moldy signs remind people to ‘nói nhỏ, nói sạch’ (speak quietly, don’t swear). This cafe is somewhat dedicated to the troubled musical genius Trinh Cong Son, who will peer down at you from several portraits while smoking a cigarette. Their Friday evening music nights are held in high regard by Hanoi’s more discerning music enthusiasts.
Oh and the drinks? Can’t really remember. The experience of visiting Cuoi Ngo is so overwhelming that we can’t remember what we drank, let alone what it tasted like. Who cares. Just go anyway.
Address: Số 4, ngách 78, ngõ 68 Cầu Giấy Street, Cau Giay District, Hanoi (the map above is slightly off so ask around)
(Số = number, ngách = alley, ngõ = lane)