Taking a leisurely walk through the pedestrian areas that surround Hoan Kiem (Sword) Lake on the weekends, one can see there is a lot on offer.
People gather at the walking street around Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi (Photo: VNA)
Visitors can not only enjoy the shade of the trees and the slower pace of life in this otherwise bustling city, but also a variety of Vietnam’s traditional games.
Played in the open space in front of the statue of Hanoi’s suicide defenders, the games include tug of war, Mandarin Square Capturing, rope skipping and stilt walking, as well as bamboo jacks and five people walking on two flip-flops. Although the games are simple, they have enlivened the whole corner of the walking street.
The introduction of traditional games around Sword Lake is part of a project titled My Childhood Memories by MyHanoi. Established in 2006, MyHanoi is one of the first clubs in the capital with in-depth activities introducing Hanoi’s history and culture to the youth.
“Our aim is to launch a variety of programmes related to preserving and promoting the city’s cultural values and beauty,” Ngo Quy Duc, manager of the club, said. “Therefore, the whole community, especially the youth, can understand more about the capital and its thousand-year history. That’s why we launched the My Childhood Memories project.”
Nguyen Thi Thu, a member of MyHanoi, added that the project will offer another choice of healthy entertainment to urban children, who lack space for recreation.
“Traditional games are gradually being replaced by modern games on smartphones or the internet, and might be at risk of disappearing altogether in the world of high technology. We want to preserve and popularise them,” she said.
“Many children have been introduced to traditional games for the first time and they have enjoyed them much. Being away from TV or iPad, they can truly appreciate the simple joys of being a child."
Because many people did not know or had forgotten how to play, there are volunteers to instruct and play with visitors, Thu added.
“My children just had a really great time”, Tran Thuy Linh from Tay Ho District, said, wiping sweat from her daughters’ foreheads. They just joined the tug of war and despite being on the losing team, they still seemed very happy. “Only when we visit my hometown in the rural area do they have so much fun like this,” Linh continued.
The kids appear to be more excited with the games, which most of them have never had a chance to try before.
“This is the first time I have played Mandarin Square Capturing and I liked playing it a lot. Ever since the walking streets opened around Sword Lake, I always look forward to the weekends to play such interesting games,” Tran Minh Nguyet, a third-grader of Nguyen Ba Ngoc Primary School, said.
It is also surprising that these games, thought to be for children only, also attract a huge number of adult participants. For them, it is chance to have fun with the kids and reminisce about their childhood.
The boisterous atmosphere in front of the statue of Hanoi’s suicide defenders has drawn the participation of many foreigners too, such as Celie Frederic, a teacher of The Lycée français Alexandre Yersin, an international French school in Hanoi.
“My family has been living in the city for nearly 10 years, but this is the first time I have learned and tried playing Vietnam’s traditional games, which was a very exciting and impressive experience,” he said.
Duc, manager of MyHanoi, revealed his future plan of developing the club into a non-profit organisation oriented towards culture and history.
“Introducing spiritual values and restoring the old ones: this is what all the members of our club are attempting and treasuring the most.”