Sipping morning coffee, listening to caged birds sing

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Sipping a cup of coffee while listening to caged birds chirp is a popular pastime in Hue Town

Having a cup of coffee early in the morning is a pleasure everywhere, but Hue has added a twist to it.

As they take sip the beverage that will help them get their day going, they listen to "birdsongs."

Hue residents will tell you that the hobby of raising birds as pets, especially the red-whiskered bulbul, with its distinctive crest and the red-vent and whiskers, has been a long-standing tradition in the city, but it was not until around more than a decade ago that it became truly widespread in the locality.

Then, the residents would argue, it made sense that the birds got together sometime so that their owners could  exchange experiences in taking care of or training their birds, and perhaps more importantly, the birds could compete to see which one of them had the best or most beautiful voice.

In order to do this, a rendezvous was needed, and the "coffee with birds" idea was born and coffee shops where bird lovers can bring their cages came into being.

These days in Hue, it does not take much time to find such coffee shops, either on the south or the north banks of the Huong (Perfume) River.

The majority of the shops seem to be on the north banks, close to the middle of the city, where a lot of trees provide a lot of shade, creating an ideal space for people to gather.

The "coffee with birds" shops do not attract customers with luxurious furniture, beautiful decorations, or a fancy food and beverage menu. Instead, the focus is on how much canopy their trees have and how convenient it is for bird cages to be hung there.

Apart from the main customers, the bird raisers and owners, many other people, including students, office workers and seniors like to start a new day at such shops, watching the birds, enjoying their songs and spending only around VND6,000 for a cup of coffee.

The coffee shop run by Nguyen Duc Duong, 65, on Le Thanh Ton Street has been open for only about four months, but attracts quite a large number of guests every morning.

"Around 6070 guests come to my place every morning," said Duong.

His coffee shop has also been chosen by bird-clubs throughout the country to organize the first-ever national competitive festival of the red-whiskered bulbul on April 27.

A good bird

First of all, a good-looking red-whiskered bulbul is one with a long body from head to tail, long legs, long and straight tail feathers, dense crest and a good voice, said Le Phuoc Cao Nguyen, 48, who owns a coffee-bird shop on Xuan 68 Street.

Second, it must sing well, which seems to mean that it is louder than others. 

Not only that, a real good red-whiskered bulbul bird has to make beautiful moves, including spreading and waving their wings, performing the  "làm nưá»›c" (bird bath) act well, quickly diving into a tiny pond of water in the cage ruffle up its feathers, dropping its wings and doing some acrobatic stunts.

"I am very interested in birds. I opened this coffee shop to make it a playground for people like me, and also to find some more income," Nguyen said.

For almost three years now, around 30-40 bird cages are brought to his café every day.

Nguyen Phuoc Bao Long, 38, a bird-raiser for almost 20 years, said that raising the red-whiskered bulbul has now spread to other parts of the country, but it cannot be denied Hue is the cradle of the movement.

People from all over the country come to Hue and get good red-whiskered bulbuls because the birds here have the best voice and most beautiful appearance, the breeder said proudly.

Some of the more popular coffee shops in Hue, besides those run by Duong and Nguyen, are the Anh Na coffee shop on Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Cat Dang on Le Huan Street, or the coffee shop of Hue's bird club on Le Thanh Ton Street. There are also a few located around the Tinh Tam Lake that have become popular.

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