One of the many pleasures of Hanoi is waking up at 5 a.m., walking (or running) to Hoan Kiem Lake, and seeing the city come alive—with hundreds of people of all ages, but more in the 60-80 year-old range, exercising together. (The average age seems to drop later in the morning, with more people in their 20s and 30s exercising by 6:30 or so.) Seeing so many people come together before dawn to move around and stay healthy and limber is an incredible and inspiring sight.
The Badlands: great place to visit. They are basically in the middle of nowhere, and miles from any major airport. It took us the better part of two days to get there from Minneapolis. As a result, they are fairly devoid of tourists. The only visitors we saw were serious outdoors lovers, and scores of bikers from the Sturgis rally, taking place while we were in the Badlands. Maybe the tough-sounding name of the Park appealed to them, or maybe just the rally’s proximity to the Badlands worked to draw them in, but the roar of Harleys was an ever present during our stay. A staffer at the lodge told me that there were over one-million bikers in Sturgis for the rally and that they had come from all over the world. Interestingly, the bikers seemed to stay away from any of the serious hikes, just checking out the vistas with very serious-looking cameras pulled out of their saddle bags. They were all very nice to Jude despite some pretty offensive, unbecoming, and sometimes racist slogans adorning their bikes and clothes (not fit to re-print here). An amusing aspect of the Sturgis Rally website is a list of the most commonly violated state laws and city ordinances during the rally (e.g. “indecent exposure[,]” bond amount $111; “deposit of filth[,]” bond amount $86, etc.).