If you love dogs, cats and cute, cuddly bunnies, then Vietnam’s Pet Café is certainly not the place for you. It exists to serve a totally different kind of animal lover. Located in the capital city of Hanoi, the café has an awesome collection of snakes, rats, lizards, tarantulas and even a few hedgehogs, stored in glass cages of various sizes. As you sit at your table and share a coffee with a friend, you can gaze upon these slow-moving reptiles in replicas of their natural habitats. And if you’re feeling a little brave, you could even ask to touch or play with them.
28-year-old Nguyen Minh Nghia, the owner of Pet Café, has a degree in mining and geology, but is now a stockbroker. He has been obsessed with animals since childhood, and that’s what prompted him to start the café. “I loved animals since I was a little boy. I began raising reptiles 5 years ago, when a friend asked me to feed his salamanders as he was too preoccupied with his own business,” Nguyen said.
He fell in love with the creatures and ended up traveling to Thailand, Singapore, Australia and China, amassing a huge collection of snakes, salamanders and other reptiles that are now his best friends. “These pets are easy to feed, but for beginners, it is not a walk in the park,” he said. “You have to read a lot of materials to learn how to raise reptiles. I’ve chosen reptiles that are suited for the environment and climate in Vietnam. To keep them alive here, I’ve got to study a lot about their living environment. My café is always dark because many reptiles do not like the light.”
Nguyen spends 6 to 8 months training each reptile, after which they become tame and harmless. To make the environment comfortable for the reptiles, Nguyen spent a lot of time digging holes in the café walls, building glass cages with steel frames and installing a specially designed lighting system. Each animal has its own specialized habitat to live in.
Patrons at the café often display mixed reactions. Some don’t waste any time getting friendly with the scaly creatures, while others are shy and wary at first. Many are downright scared, but with the help of the staff, they do get used to the idea slowly. Pham Oanh, a 23-year-old customer, said: “Once you make contact with animals like lizards, other sorts of reptiles and even spiders, you will find out that they are actually friendly.”
“The café is very interesting,” said another female customer. “You can see many different kinds of animals like milky snakes and thorny-tailed lizards here. They are very friendly, but the first time I came here I didn’t dare to touch them. After coming here several times, I really love this café now.” Pet Café is a hit with parents too, who like bringing their kids to show them the animals for real, instead of on TV.