Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Good Morning Vietnam at Dawn, Residents of Hanoi Head for the Shores of Hoan Kiem Lake and Some Early-Morning Exercise

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Good Morning Vietnam at Dawn, Residents of Hanoi Head for the Shores of Hoan Kiem Lake and Some Early-Morning Exercise

Article excerpt

In the coolness that lingers after dawn, swarms of shuttlecocks are propelled aloft.

With pings and thwacks, with air-slicing swooshes and nearly silent taps, Hanoi's badminton players swat their feathered projectiles back and forth, part of the burst of exercise that begins the day in Vietnam's capital.

Around the city's Hoan Kiem Lake, a Central Park in miniature, thousands of Hanoi residents of various ages and athletic inclinations seize the hours before the sun asserts itself to work up a sweat. Ladies wearing blouses and black, pajama-style pants practice the slow-motion martial art called tai chi. Badminton devotees clog the sidewalks, some playing noisy games that draw crowds, and others batting the shuttlecock back and forth without the benefit of a net or a court painted on the pavement. "Sport is the joy of life," booms an elderly Vietnamese man in flawless French, pausing in what he called his "promenade Chinoise." To the unsophisticated eye, it seemed as if he was merely pushing his bicycle around the lake. He explained that the activity was a prelude to his daily swim. As in many countries, soccer is the king of sports, and young men take to the streets in shorts and sneakers for a morning match. As the traffic picks up and the field of play is interrupted by too many scooters and bicycles, the athletes break for breakfast - often a bowl of noodle soup prepared by a sidewalk vendor. Here and there groups of young people play hacky-sack, keeping a homemade bean bag aloft with kicks of their feet. Others perform calisthenics, and some practice that more intellectual form of exercise known as reading the morning paper. (In recent years, the state-monitored media have offered a more energetic read - criticizing official corruption in ways that would never have appeared before the country adopted a more free-market approach in the late 1980s. But last month, party elders warned journalists against "deviations.") Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake might seem like Vietnam's badminton central, but the sport first appeared in the southern city of Saigon (renamed after national founder Ho Chi Minh in 1975) in the early 1950s. …

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