Daily Archives: January 17, 2015

Morning at Le Van Tam Park – Saigon

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Near the white statue is the ballroom dancing group.

Brrrring! The 6:30 alarm went off waking us for our first morning jog in over six months.

You the Blog Reader: Are you crazy?! Why do you need to run with all your cycling?
Us: Bikes in the repair shop, an abundance of delicious fried street food, and a need to cross-train.
You: Ok, but why set an alarm? You’re retired. Take advantage of your natural circadian rhythms.
Us: That’s a good idea. But, if we don’t run before our free breakfast ends at 9:00 am, we’ll miss out on donuts and stir-fried rice and we’ll have to pay money to sit on little plastic stools next to the morning rush-hour traffic and eat a bowl of Pho. Not that we don’t like Pho, but Pho with honking horns, truck exhaust and smog is a hectic way to start the day.
You: Have you been carrying running shoes on your bikes for 5200 km?
Us: No. They are too heaving and bulky. But, we just bought some Nike and Adidas knock-offs at the Bin Thanh mall. Two pairs of shoes for $25 for 10 days of running which works out to $2.50 per day for fun and fitness.
You: How are the knock-off shoes working out?
Us: Let’s change the subject. What I really wanted to tell you about are the activities at the park at 6:30 am. Here’s what we saw this morning.

Le Van Tam Park is a smallish park taking up about one city block. It’s an old park with mature trees, beautiful flowers and a giant statue in the center. There are walking/jogging paths meandering throughout the park, several areas with painted lines for badminton games, a small playground area, electronic bumper cars, a small splash/wading pool with a tiny water slide, outdoor weight training equipment, lots of benches. and most importantly, clean toilets.

What’s amazing about this park is how well it is utilized. We arrived at 7:00 am and I’m sure most of the people there had already been exercising for 30 minutes or longer. The walking path around the park was so filled with walker/joggers that it was like negotiating slalom gates while while skiing.

Here are more uses of the park:

In the center plaza near the statue there were about 30 couples ballroom dancing to the Blue Danube Waltz. The women were wearing high-heels and flowy dresses.

At different areas around the perimeter, there were several different groups of men and women practicing Tai Chi. My personal favorite was the group of middle-aged women with their lone , buff (and probably available) male instructor monitoring the boom box and playing peaceful morning music.

There was a young couple batting the badminton shuttlecock back and forth and working up a real sweat.

There were the body builder types who had removed their shirts to display the big muscles they’d built from push-ups from large concrete cinder blocks.

The was the single older man wearing a tiny red bowler hat and shuffling across the uneven pavement stones counter-clockwise to all the other joggers.

There was a blind women sitting on a 4-inch concrete edge to the jogging path with her hand out. There was one woman who gave her a 5000 dong note. There was the official looking park police officer who pointed his billy club at the blind woman and told her to leave.

There were four university students sitting on notebook paper on one of the walking paths and practicing their English pronunciation and inflection. I’d heard them on every lap so I went and talked to them after I’d finished my run. They practice before school 3 days per week. I told them I was impressed. I helped them pronounce the words “vegetable” and “sun”. (No “w” or 4 syllables for “vegetable” and no “sh” for “sun.)

These university students are motivated and speak great English!
These university students are motivated and speak great English!

There was a group of older women holding bamboo fans and rehearsing a fan dance.

There was very chubby (obese) young boy being coaxed to “exercise” by his grandfather.

There were the two teenage boys trying to impress the crowd with their speed – one was wearing his soccer cleats, the other his flip-flops.

Most of the women were wearing hats, usually straw or fabric with large brims and adorned with large fabric or straw flowers.

There were the public sweepers using long-handled brooms sweeping leaves into tiny piles all day long over the same area because the leaves keep falling.

So, tomorrow when the alarm rings again, I’ll look forward to what new sights the busy park might bring.