Mr. Cu came from a poor family – his father worked as a cyclo driver in Hue. The family lived in a sampan on the Perfume River. Mr Cu, the second of six children, was born in the spring of 1945.
His childhood went with the poor people. He did many different jobs and overcome a lot of challenges to have success like today. Althought his life is better now-managing a crowded restaurants and taking photographs, he alway remembers his poor life in the past. That is the reason why all his photos are about the poor sampan villagers who remind him about his childhood and his passed mother.
Mr. Cu came from a poor family. He went to school, completed grade twelve and went to work as a bus driver. Then came the Vietnam War. But the job lasted only two years: in 1971 the U.S. began their withdrawal from Vietnam. In 1974 Mr. Cu met and married his wife in Qui Nhon. After the American withdrawal, he decided that he and his wife would be safer in Hue, closer to his family.
From 1975 to 1990 Vietnam was ruled by a communist government located in Hanoi. There was no private enterprise, this is a 'very difficult time. In 1990, The Hanoi government decided to not only allow, but to encourage private enterprise. Tourists were allowed to visit Vietnam. This was the dawning of a new era. Mr. Cu's ability to seize an opportunity and opened a small cafe in the government owned 'Hotel No2 Le Loi,' one of only four hotels at that time in Hue.
By 1991 tourists started coming in larger numbers, and Mr. Cu's cafe became 'the place' to go, recommended in guide books not only for its food, but also for Mr. Cu's ability to speak English, and his willingness to provide information. An American taught him how to make banana pancakes. These pancakes won his restaurant a special mention in a 1993 New York Times article on Vietnam. Other friends helped Mr. Cu by writing and designing menus for his restaurant and advising him on good business practices.
In 1994, Mr. Cu fixed an old building up and opened his new restaurant, which he called 'The Mandarin.'
Over the next six years, the hotel managers made him move his restaurant three more times – to different locations within the hotel. And then they too kicked him out.
In 2000 Mr. Cu leased another building on one of the main streets in Hue. Again his lease was terminated, although this time he'd managed to last for five years.
Now Mr. Cu sits, or rather perches, on a chair just inside the new 'Mandarin' restaurant. He turns in his chair to face the street, watching for tourists. When he sees them, he jumps up, and walks down the stairs to the sidewalk to greet them. “Please come inside, I have a table for you!” His manner is more charming than pleading, and genuinely friendly. Mr. Cu likes people. And people like him. (Compile work)