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.
A good feeling runs through Luang Prabang. It sounds cheesy, but there is something almost cosmically happy and upbeat about this place. Part of this “feeling” no doubt has to do with the beautiful setting. More than that though, the locals’ positive attitude and laidback demeanor surely rubs off on tourists. The owner of our hotel told us that he and his wife can tell how long a tourist has been in town by the speed of his or her gait. A faster clip on day one gives way to a gentle stroll by day three.