Saturday, 16 March 2013

Good Morning Vietnam

If you wander over to the the big lake in the middle of Hanoi, just after sunrise you'll be greeted by the sight of hundreds, if not thousands, of people preparing for the day ahead. Preparing, not with a Starbucks double-lattechino and choc-chip muffin, but by performing the ancient Chinese martial art of t'ai chi.

All around the lake the wide pavement is lined with trees and little garden areas where individuals, or more commonly, small groups of people slowly and gracefully twist their bodies in precise movements. Some of the groups of ladies are holding fans which they flick open in sync with certain movements, and many of these people must be in their 70s or beyond. There's clearly a real social aspect to it all as groups of friends meet each morning to perform these very calm but also highly technical manoeuvres.

In some areas badminton court markings have been painted on the pavement and nets are strung across so that locals can flick the odd shuttlecock backwards and forwards before breakfast. And in another corner a mini version of Los Angeles' Muscle Beach sees men doing push ups and lifting weights.

And by the looks of it, it all pays off. Everyone looks in good shape (especially the older folks) and we were struggling to remember having seen an overweight resident in our time here. Then again, when the local cuisine consists of fermented pork, deep fried tarantulas and soup eaten using chopsticks, maybe it's not surprising people are lean!

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