Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Good Morning, Hanoi

Early morning aerobics in Hanoi
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
On our first morning in Hanoi, I woke up about 5:30 am local time and decided to go for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. Vietnam is very close to the equator and does not practice daylight savings time, so there was a good bit of light out already. I was surprised to find a lot of people already outside that morning. The sidewalks were crowded with badmitton nets and there were kids playing pick-up three-on-three soccer in the street.

As I turned on Le Thach Street to head to the lake, I heard loud music and then saw over one hundred women in the park exercising. The tour books and travel websites mention that Hoan Kiem Lake is a popular place for tai chi practicers. Well, these women were not doing tai chi. This was knee-kicking, hip-shaking, hand-waving aerobics set to American-style dance music. The dancers were all in rows following a single instructor who was playing the music over an large portable speaker system.

Across the street and even in front of the lake were other women that had spilled over from the crowd in the park. At the lake the sidewalks were packed with people in shorts and t-shirts walking or jogging around the lake. As I continued my walk around the lake I found a much smaller group of older people doing some tai chi type stretching.

At another place, about a dozen men had set out some free weights and bench presses in the middle of the park. At the far southwest corner of the lake was another large goup of aerobicizers all circled around a fountain with the same instructor and loudspeaker set up, but their group was not as large as the first group I had come across.

Exercising by the lake
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
Elsewhere in Vietnam I would always come across groups of people exercising early in the morning, but never quite as many or quite as organized as Hanoi.

I cannot imagine that level of public activity happening in America. All the dance classes were completely open and free and people just joined in as they felt like it.

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