It's imperative to keep the fluids up in Hanoi as they disappear fast via the pores. Some days, simply standing up sets the perspiration oozing. It's definitely the season for 'Vina Drinks List' research.
At my current location, I sit facing a pyramid of coconuts cut back to their husks, precariously resting against the cafe wall. One abrupt move and the coconuts become rogue bowling balls, cracking the ankle bones of passers-by, skittling the traffic into a deeper state of chaos, if that's possible.
I order one.
Now, by West Lake or beachside down south, the coconut would be delivered just as it falls from the tree, with the top hacked off and a plastic straw inserted into the hole. The juice would be tepid and not very refreshing. In such circumstances, I don't think it's crazy to push a few chunks of ice through the hole. When I do, my coconut purveyor thinks I've escaped from the funny farm.
In a metaphorical sense I have, which gives me license to behave like it when the situation calls for it.
Today there is no call. The preparation of my coconut is a far more intricate, sophisticated process at this humble kerbside cafe in the Old Quarter. A coconut carpenter is on hand, chipping the green skin of the fruit away with a heavy cleaver. Once the juice is poured off, he pulls a vegetable peeler from his toolbag, which he expertly uses to scrape the luscious white flesh from the coconut's bowl. I admire his handyman skills, for one slip would surely result in a deep cut, a fountain of red and a bloodied pile of coconut meat.
I do not want gorey medical emergencies on my morning break. I want refreshing cold coconut juice with ice. And that is precisely what I receive, albeit with a twist. The juice (nuoc dua long nhan) is served in a large handled glass containing a longan or two, some lotus seeds and a divine tangle of shiny coconut ribbon on top.
I experience a revelation.
Cnr. Hang Thiec & Bat Dan