Free tea keeps Hanoians hydrated under scorching sun

By Phan Duong   June 26, 2020 | 12:51 am PT
Exposed to Hanoi's scorching sun, free iced tea on Nguyen Trai Street provides poor urbanites like Lanh and Lan respite from the sizzling heat.

In the last few days, Nguyen Thi Lanh, 49, and Nguyen Thi Lan, 34, have frequented a spot under an overpass on Nguyen Trai Street, Thanh Xuan District, taking advantage of free iced lemon tea and cool towels, affording the natives from northern Ha Nam Province time out from the summer heat. 

Lan drinks a cup of tea under scorching sun. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Lan drinks a cup of tea under the scorching sun. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Selling snacks on their bicycles, both Lan and Lanh struggle to stand the capital's heat after a long morning. The plastic bottles of water they carry usually heat up during the course of the day and are of little help.

"Drinking a cup of cool water wakes me up," Lan commented.

After three minutes of rest, the duo remounted their bicycles and resumed work. In the boxes they carried, dozens of deep fried rice balls were still waiting to be sold.

On the hottest days of summer, when average temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius and UV Index indicators between 9 and 10, many have no choice but to venture out to earn a living.

Employed at a wedding studio on Nguyen Trai Street, Tung said his boss wanted to support those who have to work under the scorching sun, coming up with the idea of providing free iced lemon tea.

Tung says he prepares 2-3 bottles of tea each day. Cool towels and single-use cups are added regularly, ensuring more people are supported. Besides, a box of free bread will soon join the free menu.

"From around 10 a.m., drivers and those returning from markets usually stop for a drink. They come and go continuously," Tung said, adding he is happy to help lessen the burden of others.

People take free iced tea from the stainless steel bottle. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Free iced tea is available from a stainless steel bottle. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Hai Phong, a delivery worker, also frequents the iced tea ‘stand’ with his colleague after an industrious morning without a meal.

"It is too hot so we do not want to eat, we are only thirsty," said Phong, who started working in deliveries in May after the Covid-19 pandemic claimed his old job as a bus conductor.

Working with a friend, Phong now earns around VND300,000 ($12.89) per day, delivering 20 orders. To stay hydrated on summer days, he usually carries a bottle of iced water, refilling it whenever he can.

"Thanks to free water refill spots on Nguyen Trai, Le Trong Tan, and Chua Lang Streets, I feel less tired," the delivery man maintained. 

Dinh Hung Song drinks tea while waiting for the bus to come home after four months of chemotherapy. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Dinh Hung Song drinks tea while waiting for the bus home after four months of chemotherapy. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Tung's place is not the only spot offering free water. Since the beginning of May, several "Zero stores" on Lang Ha, Ba Trieu and Thai Ha Streets offering clothes and books have also installed free water dispensers.

According to Vu Thu Ha, manager of these stores, each uses up to two bottles of water per day. Notably, on Lang Ha Street, hosting many students and motorbike taxi drivers, people drink up to four bottles daily.

To mitigate Covid-19 infection risks, Ha's stores advise customers to use their own bottles. "We will keep doing this until the end of summer," she stated.

Dinh Hung Song, 52, is one of those who enjoyed a free tea. Walking along the baking streets with his heavy backpack, he saw the words "mien phi" (free) and decided to check it out.

Discharged from Vietnam National Cancer Hospital (K Hospital) after four months of chemotherapy, Song is eager to return home to northern Quang Ninh Province. Sometimes, his tongue cancer does not make him feel half as tired as the baking summer sun.

"Drinking a cup of iced tea makes me feel happier," he said.

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