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This small coffee shop on the Vietnamese-Laotian border is a window to a bigger dream

Saturday, July 02, 2022, 10:40 GMT+7
This small coffee shop on the Vietnamese-Laotian border is a window to a bigger dream
Visitors are seen at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

When four friends opened their coffee shop in Quang Tri Province, their goal wasn’t to make their business a success, it was to transform their hometown into Vietnam’s next big tourist hotspot.

Homi Coffee gets the kind of google reviews you’d expect form a big city coffee chain – glowing accounts of visits and consistent 4 and 5 stars.

But Homi Coffee isn’t a big city chain, it’s merely a patio overlooking a stunning valley run by four friends with a big dream.

More guests, more hope

Homi Coffee sits along National Highway 9 between Dong Ha City and the Lao Bao Border Gate in Huong Hoa District.

But despite its rural setting, this café never fails to welcome a steady stream of customers.

Nguyen Viet Duy, 26, is a self-taught barista and one of the café’s four founders. The other owners include Nguyen Ngoc Lan, Nguyen Quang Cuong, and Ho Van Lanh, all 29 years old.

“We opened our coffee shop as a stop for travelers on their way to Huong Hoa so that they could experience the scenery and try out the local Arabica coffee which was originally brought here by the French,” Duy shared.  

View from Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
View from Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

In the 18 months since it opened, Homi Coffee has served 400 to 1,500 guests each day, 90 percent of whom are from out of town, according to Duy.

 “The more guests that visit our coffee shop, the more hope we have for our rural district,” said Duy.

A crowded day at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
A crowded day at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Duy and his co-founder launched Homi during COVID-19 after Lan spotted the would-be location while photographing the area using a fly cam.

In awe of the beautiful valley and Ta Du Stream below, Lan gathered the other three founders, shared his idea to open a coffee shop overlooking the area, and went to work launching the business.

“The Arabica coffee in Huong Hoa has a very good taste,” Lan said, adding that he hopes the buzz the café gets on social media will draw more customers to the café and, in turn, make the entire town a more popular tourist destination.  

Visitors are seen at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
Visitors are seen at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Spreading the word about Huong Hoa

Over the past year and a half, the four founders have seen their dream begin to come true as the area becomes more popular amongst travelers from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Hai Phong. 

One of these travelers was Nguyen Tu Trang Tho, a tourist from the northern city of Hai Phong who said she had never been in Huong Hoa, but photos of Homi and the cloud-covered valley below convinced her to add Huong Hoa to her list of stops on a cross-country trip.  

When Tho arrived, she realized that photos of Huong Hoa didn’t do the area justice and Homi, in particular, was much more stunning than she had expected.

In fact, she found Huong Hoa so peaceful that she chose to spend an extra day in the area.

A visitor poses for a photo at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
A visitor poses for a photo at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Trinh Xuan Duc from Hanoi shared a similar opinion to Tho after he made a stop at Homi during a business trip to Quang Tri.

Duc had already been aware of nearby Khe Sanh and Lao Bao, but didn’t realize that both were in Houng Hoa.

“I hope that the young founders [of Homi] inspire other young people in nearby provinces. I greatly admire them for what they are doing,” Duc said.

The coffee shop attracts not only Vietnamese but also foreigners especially from Laos, including Khamtai Khomeai, a Laotian tourist who first heard about the café from Vietnamese friends and has visited several times to enjoy the view and take photos.

“My friends and I really like the coffee shop. We often visit it on weekends,” he said.

Signs introduce local tourist sites displayed at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
Signs introduce local tourist sites displayed at Homi Coffee in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Little pieces of a bigger puzzle

Founders Duy and Lan spend a good chunk of time managing Homi while the two other founds, Cuong and Lanh, spend time exploring Huong Hoa. 

According to Lan, a typical day at Homi involves finding small ways to contribute to the development of the area.

“I think no place is limited. Our biggest limitations are our thoughts. When we only think about difficulties, we aren’t able to dream. It’s time for young people in Huong Hoa to turn this land into a better place.”

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Vuong Anh - Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre News

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