“No one in our village was as beautiful as she was…we liked each other since we were 12 years old…”
Thai Truang Dao is a 92 years old Vietnamese, living in Hoi An with his wife, Thai Mo Ba. He established Café Dao in the mid forties, before the battle of Dien Bien Phu and much before the Vietnam War (known as the American War in Vietnam).
“ I owned a small coffee shop in Hoi An….it was called Café Dao. I established it in 1947, and it was a modest place for where Hoi An people would come to socialize, gossip and become friends, not only for good coffee.”
Thai Truang Dao is 92 years, and first fell in love with his wife, Thai Mo Ba when they were both 12 years old.
They attended the same school, but after graduation didn’t meet again until she was 28 years old. Extremely unusal for a Vietnamese woman, Ba hadn’t yet married…waiting for Dao she loved. They met again by accident, and married.
Thai Truang Dao graciously welcomed me in his small home, and allowed me to photograph wherever and whatever I wanted. Here, amongst old photographs and paintings of his ancestors, is a fading photograph of his parents.
When I return to Hoi An in September 2014, I will have many of these photographs to give them.
Alongside a wall clock (that didn’t work), and an old calendar, a watercolor painting of Thai Truang Dao in his youth.
On the other side of the wall, a painting of a young Thai Mo Ba, flanked by another even older calendar.
Thai Truang Dao in his favorite chair, recounting his memories of a past long gone. A soft-spoken man, he still possesses a youthful wit and relished poking fun of his wife. She, of course, pretended not to hear him.
Thai Mo Ba never sat down for more than a minute…fussing around in her kitchen, making tea. Shy, she hardly spoke a word during my visit except for smiling whenever her husband spoke of her.
“I thought she had already married, but she had waited for me to marry her…so I married her. What else could I do?”
“Yes, I loved her of course, but it was also the right thing to do.”
Thai Mo Ba’s small, but functional kitchen, where she spends most of her time brewing tea for her husband and their children, when they come visiting.
Thai Mo Ba also uses her porch as an extension to her kitchen whenever she needs.
Food vendors frequently pass by their house, and Thai Truang Dao asks his wife if she fancies pho for dinner.
Thai Mo Ba, not content to leave her husband decide, hurries to haggle with the food vendor over their two bowls of pho.
Interior shots of their home. Here, along with other paraphernalia, a large water bottle for the couple’s tea and coffee.
On the upper floor of their home, the couple’s ancestor altar. Almost every Vietnamese household keeps and carefully maintains an altar to worship the family’s ancestors. Ancestor worship takes place regularly on particular days such as festivals, new and full moon days, and the death day of the ancestor.
The couple’s bedroom, which they occupied continuously for almost 66 years.
Taking my leave from Thai Mo Ba who’s carrying a thermos flask almost as big as she is, she smiles and nods.
Standing in the same spot as his wife, it’s Thai Truang Dao’s turn to stand and formally pose for my camera.
This is a multimedia version of Café Dao, which I hope relays the grace of this couple who, welcomed a total stranger in their home for a few hours.