One way to break the mould is an eye-catching design, and what’s more eye-catching than a big yellow bus?

That must have been what Nguyen Duc Sam and his friends thought when they opened Hanoi Bus Cafe.

Located on the grounds in front of a future Ha Dong metro station on To Hieu Road, the cafe is inside a stationary bus which has been redesigned.

Sam said he came up with the idea for the cafe during a trip to Vinh Phuc province north of the capital when he saw many damaged buses that had been abandoned and were going to waste.

“A sudden idea came to my mind, why don’t we use such a bus to open a coffee shop? My friends agreed and we bought a bus, but at first we faced many difficulties on how to turn it into a cafe as we didn’t have any model to follow,” Sam said.

He said his group repaired the bus with old parts such as tyres, and even today they try to improve the bus using recycled materials.

The group stripped the interior of the bus to repaint it, made the driver’s area a kitchen and used old tyres as tables, chairs and pots for plants.

“One of my group members cut plastic bottles to become a flower pot to be used again and again,” said Sam.

Retiree Nguyen Van Loi, who is a regular customer of the cafe, likes the idea.

“It is a practical action to protect the environment and to respond to world organisations’ call to reduce plastic bags and other items that cause harm to the environment and our lives,” he said.

The bus cafe is also outfitted with a small library, as well as two guitars and an organ for music lovers.

Housewife Tran Thi Bang often brings her two children to the bus so she can show them how discarded products can be recycled.

As well as standard coffee, the cafe also serves coconut coffee and various kinds of fruit juices at prices ranging from 25,000-45,000 VND.

“My children are interested in reading books and playing hide and seek around the bus.

“They also like the rocking chair made from a used tyre.

“The environment around the bus this autumn is very good and fresh for them to relax after hard learning in school,” Bang said, adding that space around the bus would be great for snapping a photo. 

Student Hoang Trong Minh from the National Economics University said the model was unique in Vietnam.

Minh and his friends often come here to enjoy coffee, read books or play music.

The customer experience is crucial for Sam, so he said he was careful to choose safe ingredients and offered a money back guarantee.

“If a customer leaves his/her drink and food, I will ask them why. If it’s because of the taste, the customer will not have to pay anything and if they say it’s because they’re in a hurry, I will ask my employee to wrap up their order to take it away,” he said.

As a result, Hanoi Bus Cafe has seen increasing numbers of customers, from all walks of life.

This success has led to overcrowding during weekends and holidays, so Sam said he hoped to open another bus cafe before long.

You know what they say, you wait for one bus cafe and then two show up at once.