HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Walk in the Park

Open space comes at a premium in dense, heavily urbanized Saigon, so it is perfectly common to see recreational activities taking place in unusual places. Boys playing soccer with a plastic bottle in the alley outside of my house. Young men playing badminton on the sidewalk. Middle-aged folk jogging on the side of the road.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the city's parks are usually packed full of Saigonese taking part in a vast array of activities. There are a fair number of parks here, but the majority of them are quite small - I'd be surprised if all of them combined were even close to half as big as Central Park. And, annoyingly, you aren't allowed to walk or sit on the grassy areas, which means everyone is crammed into the narrow walkways that snake through most parks. That issue aside, these areas are great places to watch local Vietnamese enjoy their time off from work or school.

There is a park, Tao Dan, just a couple of blocks from house. Bounded by Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Nguyen Du, and CMT8, and stretching to the rear wall of the Reunification Palace, this rather large (by Saigon standards) park features badminton courts, soccer fields, basketball courts, a swimming pool, and numerous paths, as well as landscaped plants and topiary hedges.
pictures stolen from the internets
Since the streets and sidewalks in our neighborhood are so hectic, my roommates and I have no other place to go for a run than this park. I went for one earlier tonight, and I was struck by the sheer variety of what people were doing. Couples cuddled on benches, the most acceptable form of PDA in a country that is slowly sloughing off its conservative past; a large group of middle-aged women did aerobics to the beat of techno blaring from a stereo (this is a common site at sunrise and sundown throughout Asia); two young men showed off their break-dancing skills; in one section a group of 10 people were practicing songs on their harmonicas; a few feet away two shirtless men and two women kicked a shuttlecock back and forth; and in one corner people of all ages took advantage of the funny exercise machines found in every park here that allow you to exercise while barely working up a sweat. Examples:
this is apparently from South Korea
In the past I've seen people practicing sword fighting, conducting scavenger hunts, and singing horrible songs in groups. It's nice to see Vietnamese of every generation enjoying the green and (relatively) peaceful surroundings of the park and think that maybe, just maybe, this place isn't so strange after all. Wait, why is that woman running around in a face mask, sweatshirt, pants, and big hat? Nevermind...

1 comment:

  1. That final paragraph pretty much summed up every trip to the parks out here perfectly