Themed cafes and restaurants have been taking Asia by storm for the last decade; bizarre, unusual, and out-of-the-box dining spaces open up in capital cities and small towns, the one as unique as the next.
The history of this quirky phenomenon goes back to the 19th century when the first themed restaurant opened in Parisan cafes and cabarets in Montmartre; Café du Bagne (Coffee from prison) was established by Maxime Lisbonne, a former prisoner who had the idea to replicate a prison eating hall in a restaurant and have waiters dressed as real convicts.
Throughout the decades leading up to the 21st century it just go more bizarre, more unusual and more out-of-the-box with restaurants echoing zombie experiences to themes of Hello Kitty, Barbie, Charlie Brown and modern technology and even a chance to dine in the dark, dine in a prison and dine in a hospital with nurses as waiters.
SEE: Explore almost every landmark in Asia in only 2 minutes
Themed cafes and restaurants are – usually – anything but specialty dining spots; you might not remember these places for their incredible food and drinks, but you will – without a doubt – remember it for the atmosphere and the theme…
Taipei, Taiwan – Modern Toilet
If you are feeling a bit pooped after a hard day of work or exploring then Modern Toilet in Taipei is just the place to rest your weary soul. But it might not be for everyone.
It is safe to say that not everyone can stomach this restaurant. Modern Toilet, as the name suggests, is a toilet themed restaurant and when it comes to the décor and dishes, one thing is certain: the creators really spared no detail; you sit on a toilet, you eat out of toilet, you drink out of a urinal and you wash your hands in… you’ve guessed it… a toilet.
Don’t miss out on the dessert, a delicious brown swirl of chocolate ice cream in a mini-squat toilet; the resemblance is uncanny.
Seoul, South Korea – Virtual Reality Café
Ask any male (and often female) in South Korea what their favourite hobby is and the words “computer games” are bound to pop up. But now, in the virtual reality era, South Korea put their trendy innovative minds to work and created a Virtual Reality themed café where you can play different games.
For a flat fee of buying one drink (approximately R50) and paying an extra R200, you can play any of the café’s virtual reality games on offer for about 70 minutes before you have to step back into the real world.
Vietnam – Ailu Café
When you hear about cat or dog cafes in Asia the mind immediately wanders to the wrong side of the dinner table. Cat and dog cafes are extremely popular in Asia and it usually offers visitors the opportunity to cuddle and play with some furry –often rescued – creatures.
One café of such nature is Ailu Cat House Club in Hanoi, Vietnam.
For a fee of R20 you can enter the cat heaven – a space with plenty of cat toys, shelves and sleeping surfaces; order yourself a drink (approximately R40) and stroke, play and cuddle to your heart’s content with the cats. There are usually a few rules involved when visiting cat cafes; you are not allowed to use your flash when taking photos, you can’t wake up a sleeping cat, pull a tail, hold or carry a cat (unless it jumps onto your lap and you should not feed the cat your beverage or food.
It’s too purr-fect to pass.
Malaysia – Coffee on the Table
Coffee on the Table in the trendy district of Georgetown in Penang is taking latte art to a whole new level.
Forget about those espresso-and-milk-swirls you’ve perceived as fancy because in Malaysia you can get a cat, puppy, elephant or octopus on your cappuccino. And “on” means ON! The baristas at Coffee on the Table create these creatures from milk foam; they add a few chocolate swirls to make the characters come to life and voila, just like that you have a kitty cat taking a bath in your drink with its head peeking out.
Thailand – Cabbages and Condoms
Ignore the hush-hush under-the-table conversation about the birds and the bees…
Cabbages and Condoms in Thailand’s capital has put an interesting twist on the facts of life with funny explicit posters and life-size mannequins, fully clothed in condoms. Here, you don’t only get good food and an after-dinner condom with your bill (instead of an after-dinner mint), but you also make a positive contribution to the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). The proceeds from the gift shop and restaurant fund the development and social welfare activities, such as family planning and safe sex education, of the PDA.
Now you know where to get more bang for your Thai Baht.
Japan – Soineya Cuddle Café
Most of us like to cuddle, right? But how do you feel about cuddling with a complete stranger and then paying that stranger?
Japan opened the world’s first cuddle café, Soineya, in 2012 in Tokyo and it defined itself as a “co-sleeping” specialty shop where you can sleep in someone’s arms (or lap); no strings attached, fully clothed and no kinky business with a R330 admission fee. The café’s menu offers patrons the chance of choosing how they want to sleep and cuddle and for a few extra thousand yen you can sleep in someone’s arms or even just stare at each other.
But before you think it is just too weird, hold your horses, because Cananda, the US and the UK have jumped on the bandwagon as well with their own cuddle cafes (even though you can only cuddle big fluffy soft toys in the UK).
To cuddle or not to cuddle? The only question here is whether you want to be the big spoon or the little spoon.
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