In Hanoi the sip lid hole is an inconvenience.
Every single coffee shop offering takeaway has a roll of tape at the counter. Your coffee is prepared, lidded and the hole, or holes, are taped to stop spillage. The cup is bagged and the bag hooked onto your motorbike as you continue your journey to work or home.
People don’t walk in Hanoi. Nobody strolls sipping from a takeaway latte.
This is what all those tourist traffic tales and tips for crossing roads don’t get. Yes there are ways to cross the road, but most of us will go months between crossings. Hanoians don’t cross roads. When you literally park your bike in your kitchen, then on the pavement outside work, a cafe, shop or bar, why would you?
Even if you’d like to walk you can’t. The pavements are full of bikes.
The coffee is for the destination. Not the journey.
I’ve recently found myself succumbing to that Vietnamese start-the-day stretch – an up and at ‘em twist with a bent knee kick, first left then right.
In addition, someone recently told me most headaches are caused by stiff neck muscles so, as a frequent sufferer, I occasionally attempt the trying to touch your shoulder with your ear thing.
Vietnamese customers at my gym stretch so much that it’s hard to know where the stretching stops and real exercise starts. Perhaps it’s straying beyond stretching into actual yoga territory. Perhaps the stretching is the exercise.
At Yakushi they bend and stretch me and on occasions stick needles in me to try and sort out my back. It does seem to be improving though that could equally be down to increased gym visits and subsequent weight loss. The back doesn’t hurt any more but on occasions it does feel stiff which necessitates yet more stretching. Bending backwards over an exercise ball brings a certain vertebrae pleasing relief.
Did living in Asia make me learn the importance of stretching? Did living in Asia make me need to stretch – a lack of brisk walks due to the hot, humid Hanoi summer perhaps?
Do I just need to stretch more because I’m getting old? It’s not the first time I’ve been confused as to whether changes I am noting in myself are down to age or location.
Or, I suppose, generic expat flakiness.
I’ve been lucky so far that an emergency editing job has meant I’m solvent for another month while I continue to look for new employment.
But I’ve also taken the chance to get down the gym having bought a short-term membership. What’s surprised me so far, despite the swanky youngness of the place, is just how many of the members are old.
I’ve never even been approaching fit. At best I played a game of five-a-side a week which just about stopped me getting out of breath on stairs. I played for a while in Hanoi but it got a bit shoutey and the dehydration would last for days.
In Vietnam you have to plan for exercise otherwise the long hot summer sees your belly grow as your legs whither from under use. I use my motorbike for even the shortest trip or I arrive soaked. Exercise has to be scheduled as a separate activity. The rest of the time you’re aiming to minimise movement to minimise sweating.
The oldies here have long worked that out. Perhaps as the city gets warmer and busier they’ve no longer the desire to do their stretches around the lake in the morning. Perhaps they’re just getting richer and now have other options.
While a few of them take to the treadmill with fear in their eyes, baby-stepping and clinging on for dear life, the rest could comfortably out cross-train me.
They’re a contrast to the gym’s other biggest group – mirror loving young Vietnamese males. Their eyes never leave their reflection.