Lured in by the smell of coffee wafting through the air and my weakness for Chinese decoration, I stepped through the door to smiles and, rather oddly, silence. At first I couldn’t really understand what was happening; a Korean couple reading and Western family of 5 sat eating biscuits and sipping coffee without saying a word. I noticed beautiful ceramics and coffee boxes for purchases, and started to speak before rapidly being instructed to shhh (with a smile)… Oh, what’s happening here? This café – Reaching Out – is run by ladies with hearing impairments, and there is no talking permitted. As someone who believes the world is too noisy, this was a Godsend! I cannot help but think we need a similar type of place in London…
You place your order by completing a form which, fortunately, comes in English. Quite out of character, I hadn’t researched Vietnam very well; most of my experiences were unplanned and, perhaps, that is what made them even more emotional. The power of a smile, of looking into another human being’s eyes with intend and trying to understand who they are without exchanging words is deeply meaningful, and I was caught off guard. It’s interesting what you pick up along the way, right? Reading the literature at the café, I came upon the term “differently abled people” – isn’t that much better, and far more accurate, than ‘disabled’.
I chose a coffee-tasting set which came complete with condensed milk and a variety of homemade biscuits. I don’t usually sweeter my coffee but this is traditionally how things are done here, and I like to experience new things. I was particularly impressed by the presentation – perfectly polished glassware, glistening gold decoration, Chinese characters galore and a business model that at once accommodates tourists supports local people and remains true to Vietnam. Highly-impressive.
I spent over an hour here, taking photographs, sipping coffee and just closing my eyes and enjoying the gentle murmur of life outside and that sweet, smell of really good coffee. Located within the UNESCO heritage town and started by a Vietnamese couple, the Reaching Out company provides employment for those living with disabilities, offering them a chance to enhance their skills to provide an income to live independently. The company receives no outside funding and is completely reliant on people like us. Great coffee, calm surroundings and an even better cause. If you’re visiting Hoi An, I highly recommend a visit.
P.S. I am desperately trying to book another trip to Vietnam. Alas, it will have to wait until 2017.
131 Trần Phú,
tp. Hội An,