Recreation in Vietnam

Recreation in Vietnam

From the fencing lessons in Ho Chi Minh City to the tree lined paths along Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi; Vietnam has impressed me with the abundance of open space, public art and recreation opportunities.  In my seven-years in recreation, I have observed the politics involved in obtaining open space, budgeting for public art and fighting for paths to be preserved for public use.  I understand that there are less barriers to creating and maintaining recreation spaces in a communist country, but it was still surprising to me to see how much Vietnam has invested in this.

A fencing lesson in Ho Chi Minh City's largest park.

The largest park in Ho Chi Minh City, the 25 acre Toa Dan Park, was busy with Vietnamese dancing, walking and even women enjoying an informal fencing lesson.  The space was more than just a planned respite from the honking traffic clogging the streets, but it also had a vast reflecting pond, wide walking paths and huge trees providing much needed shade.  The park was well kept with several people employed to landscape and maintain the greenery.

Vietnamese park maintenance workers doing some planting in Ho Chi Minh City.

From Ho Chi Minh City all the way North to Hanoi examples of Vietnam’s commitment to parks was clear.  We enjoyed the beautiful boardwalks along the ocean in Nha Trang and the man made Xuan Huong Lake in Dalat.  One of my favorite parks was in Hue where sculptures lined the shores of the Perfume River.  Each sculpture was created by a different artist and the variety rivaled even the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.  We enjoyed many walks along the river and even rented a bike to enjoy the full extent of the paths.

One of the many sculptures in Hue along the Perfume Pagoda.

I will always stand by the benefits of parks and recreation for both visitors and residents so it is exciting to see the development of a national park system in Vietnam.  There are currently 30 national parks in Vietnam and the couple parks that we visited were well preserved and visitors were encouraged to have a guide to insure respect for marked paths and prevent littering.  Vietnam also has two Natural World Heritage sites, Halong Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.  They are proud of both of these parks and even have advertisements to encourage people to vote for Halong Bay as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  In addition to their young national park system Vietnam boasts six world biosphere reserves.

The poster soliciting more votes for Halong Bay to be one of the seven wonders of the world.

Why am I so excited that Vietnam has embraced the idea of national parks and I’m in favor of national heritage sites?  These sites are important to the history of humanity as a whole in fact the second cultural criteria for establishing a UNESCO World Heritage site is that it “exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design.”  Parks and Recreation, which encompasses historical sites, is essential for people to connect and come together.  Without these essential outlets and historical sites people would not have the same opportunities to come together and connect over both their past and recreational pursuits.

If you are planning a trip to Vietnam make sure you take some time to get off the tourist track and explore some of Vietnam’s parks and natural sites.  You won’t regret it.

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Comments

» dad :
Feb 6, 2011

this one was read with a tinge of melancholy and pride given our common thread……not unlike our recent excursion to China where woman were all under 130# and men under 160#, we saw first hand the important role diet, recreation and active lifestyles “play” in a healthy, vibrant society……good stuff as always….enjoy Thailand…..Nick was going to work up some of his old contacts for you….hope so….super bowl party tomorrow…..be safe…love you…. dad

» Cindy :
Feb 8, 2011

Likewise, we were also surprised with all the individual and group activities in open public areas in China including groups of elderly couples who would come out for Western style dances (Polka, Waltz, etc.) in the evenings and dance for hours. These community events were obviously organized with large portable speakers and sound systems set up. Your article reminded me of our observations in China. Very interesting.

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LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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