Vietnam: Good morning, Hanoi

That bit of sunlight sneaked out very early in the morning in Hanoi in those summer days. I woke up at 5am to catch the sunrise but somehow I was still the late one. The whole sky was brighten up already and many things around me had started going on. There was one thing I had wanted to witness was the activities in Hanoi in mornings. Having spent many years visiting Hanoi, lived here for awhile, but somehow I hadn’t known that much of this motherland of mine.

The street seemed quieter in that early morning. There was not much traffic on the road but it was still crazy driving a motorbike then nonetheless. I was the only one stopping at the traffic light but then I realised it did not make no sense of stoping anyway. However, seeing Hanoi so empty like that is quite rare. So there I went to Hoan Kiem Lake.


One thing I noticed about early mornings here was many people going out with their bicycles. Along the lake, everyone cycled their way around the lake and elsewhere. Some were probably doing that as their morning exercise. Some people sitting by the post office were wrapping newspapers to deliver on time. Old people were gathering together into different groups – some joined taichi group, some gave massage to the other, some did some stretching… Maybe this image I had seen many times on TV and on media, but it was my first time witnessing it. Actually, this has made Hanoi so colourful and fascinating.


Making a lap around the Hoan Kiem Lake, I was amazed by the variety of activities at that hour. Some looked quite strange to me such as old women rubbing their bellies, or men using trees as their kungfu training tools. Some dance groups were very active – from Aerobics to Latin dance. If you think about it, you wouldn’t find this anywhere else except in Hanoi. The image of old people doing exercises either in the park or around Hoan Kiem Lake has been the typical picture of this capital city and it has got to most people’s memory no matter they are tourists or Hanoians. Funnily, this has made a vivid culture of Hanoi. Either hot or cold, the morning exercise is one thing that people will never skip. Like on that day, even though the temperature was close to 35 degrees, sweat was running on everyone’s face, it wouldn’t be an excuse to stop skip the morning routine.

This habit is one long-time tradition of Hanoi. People who have ever lived in this capital city would miss this image when they are gone. One thing I know that the longer I linger my feet in Hanoi, the more attached I feel for my homeland. That does sound quite strange but for whom live abroad like me, we appreciate this moment which we find something so close to our root but far forgotten because of being abroad.