Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pretty hot under the vertical ray of the sun

Hot and bothered Teddy de Burca Jnr. visits a traditional doctor in search of a remedy to help him cool down but, in the end, comes away with a little bit too much information

The summer is hard for someone who has been genetically engineered to live in a peat bog. Of course, everyone suffers in the heat of Hanoi, it’s irrepressible, but there are a select unlucky few who suffer more than most and it seems I am one of the main contenders for hottest man (sadly just in terms of temperature) in Hanoi.

If my friends are looking for me at a party or a crowded bar, they just check by all the fans. Somewhere under or beside a propeller I’ll be standing in a soggy shirt with ice cubes in my armpits.

Which I can live with usually, but the recent world cup meant an unhealthy combination of bizarre sleeping hours, copious amounts of beer, and way too much coffee to keep me awake during working hours the next day, and I was left rundown and riddled in spots.
I knew it was time to – saying this word still hurts like a kick to the teeth – detox. A
Vietnamese friend told me to cool down I needed more Yin and less Yang and wrote down some diet tips: along with coffee, liquor and spicy food, I had to kick the “hot” fruits (e.g. mango, lychee) and dig into the cooling ones (melon, dragon fruit); drink plenty of Linh Chi (longevity mushroom), artichoke tea and water by the bucket load.

As I sat glumly in a café - not drinking coffee but a glass of iced chalk (apparently it’s called bot san and made from kudzu and cools the blood) - my partner’s erudite and worldly sister, Hanh, asked if I wanted to go to a “medicinal doctor”.

What she meant was a traditional doctor who plies his trade with weird and wonderful herbs. He came highly recommended she said (but for what she didn’t say) and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try it out. He might help me “cool down”.

Perhaps, more out of curiosity I agreed, so Hanh and I headed off to the far side of the city to find this “medicine man”. His clinic turned out to be his family house. His receptionist-slash-daughter led us into the front room which was dank and dimly lit. Along the shelves that surrounded the room were large jars, the kind you’d know from sweet shops, normally filled with fudge, apple drops and cola bottles, but here they contained nothing but mysterious roots and herbs. The names were written on plasters and stuck on the bottle, but I have no idea what any of them were.

The medicine man emerged, a chipper chap, who looked delighted to have a very special patient on a Sunday. He began to ask me questions about my private life, not the 20 question treatment, but part of his “analysis”. He took my pulse. Looked in my throat. Asked a number of questions, a few of which concerned, embarrassingly enough for Hanh, stool movement and urine colour.

Then after a while satisfied with his diagnosis he began to write out what had to be done. A lot of it was what I’d already been told or guessed – reduce spicy food, alcohol, coffee, he also included shrimps and crab, all of which was bad enough but then I noticed something else he said had to be reduced: sinh hoat vo chong (husband and wife “activities” I found out later).

Then as regards the colour of my urine he whispered in a conspiratorial tone to my now highly embarrassed (or was she highly amused?) companion to tell my wife that my metaphorical salmon might not be swimming up the metaphorical stream.

But I couldn’t defend my honour: as these bombshells about my personal life detonated around me I sat blithely unawares, while smiling politely and nodding my head as if it were all on the money – (Hanh didn’t translate what he said until we had got back to the café). Then triumphantly medicine man pulled out four large packs of white and brown “herbs/ medicine”, which were the size of small peppercorns, and told me I had to eat the lot in a month, before charging me VND250,000 for the privilege of having my reputation put to the sword (not to mention doubting my manhood).

Of course, as I said, I didn’t find any of this out until later and once I did I was quick to dismiss the man as a quack. But now at home looking at my pile of medicine (who knows what it is or where it came from) I can't help wondering am I more of a sucker if I throw the VND250,000 herbs away or if I eat the whole pile down as instructed. After all, a spoonful of medicine may help the temperature go down and this summer is far from over.


elliott said...

For that kind of cash I'd eat the whole lot at once and keep my fingers (and perhaps legs) firmly crossed.

linhtinh74 said...

Enjoy reading this post. Just a minor correction: "bot san" is not cassava. It's Kudzu in English or "San lie ye ye ge" in Chinese - the tree is quite difference from casava.

There is a big Kudzu just next to my house, next time you go there, check this out.

pittstop designer said...

You are a budding medicine man linhtinh74! cheers.

Anonymous said...

Do you know the head is often half degree or one degree hotter than the body. and when your head is half degree hotter, you feel like you are two-three degree hotter. Get a hair cut, it'll cool you down. x

pittstop designer said...

the a? ma toc dai hoi bi thoai mai va mat anh dep roi. khong can cat toc dau! anonymous nhin thi biet!

xin cam on medicine man!

Anonymous said...

Elliot, he is throwing the peppercorn thing away. When disolved in water, it's like the scene from Austin Power when Austin mistook Fat Bastard's stool sample for coffee.

elliott said...

Pardon my French, but "peppercorn thing"? Did it grow legs? Just don't throw it anywhere near a populated area...