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A day at Tao Dan Park

No 3, Vol.10 , September  -  October 2015


I went to Tao Dan Park at 7 a.m. People of all types were jogging, walking, doing exercise, dancing, practicing martial arts and playing badminton.
At the parking lot, I thought I had stepped into a forest with the noise of hundreds of birds. Many people were sitting in the café listening attentively to songs performed by the bird orchestra. This was a bird club established in the park long ago. Mr Dung, a bird-lover, said that most of people here knew each other well. Many come every morning for an exchange of ideas. Mr Dung has come here every weekend for over 10 years. He said it was not difficult to raise birds, but you must have a passion for them. At first, there was a conflict between him and his wife; she was jealous because he spent so much time feeding and bathing them.

Particularly, to own a bird with a good voice, you have to usually bring it to the bird clubs to learn new songs or voices from other birds. A bird or a bird cage ranges from a few hundred thousand dongs to a few hundred millions. Then he pointed to a small wooden cage cost VND30 millions and was imported from China. He introduced me to an old man who released a bird costing $2,500 to the sky because the bird had a wound on its eyes. I thought that the bird would to survive in the outside world after being in the cage for long time. Mr Dung told me that the club organized bird contests in public holidays and attracted a lot of audiences to the events.

I met Frank, aged 54, from Holland, while he was visiting outdoor museum of daily life. He and his wife have been on a trip visiting Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta and Cambodia. Frank said he had an interesting morning in Tao Dan Park while the others in his group were sleeping. He also admired a Vietnamese tradition when I told him my husband, I, my brother and my parents lived in the same roof. My parents would help me take care of my babies and we also would do this when my parents get old.

Then I met the Kung Fu master Ly Hong Hon, 85, who was teaching Thieu Lam Con Luan to his grandson, aged 8, and a few students. His voice was so clear although he had recent heart surgery. He showed me a picture with the caption, ‘Mr Ly Hong Hon teaches martial art in Tao Dan Park in 1976’. He said: ‘Going to school helps you can earn a lot of money. Studying martial arts brings you nothing except for health, which is an essential condition to get everything you want.’ Later, I searched online and knew that his family emigrated from China to Vietnam in 1932. He was one of the descendants of the inventors of Thieu Lam Con Luan in 1954. This martial art originated in China.

I had a discussion with Mr Nguyen Thanh Cong, a scout of the Thang Long League. He said that all children could join the scout teams free of charge every Sunday morning. It was established with the aim of teaching the children necessary skills in life.
The best activity in Tao Dan Park is sitting on the bench inhaling the oxygen from a lot of lush trees, observing everyone and watching the fearless birds walking on the grass. Every time I come here, it always reminds me about good memories with my friends when we were high school girls. Everything in the park is still the same except us and trees getting old.
Tao Dan Park completely does its job well providing a beautiful garden for citizens and tourists.n

The park located in District 1 between four roads of Cach Mang Thang Tam, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Nguyen Du and Huyen Tran Cong Chua. After 1812, General Le Van Duyet, who helped Gia Long King open up, control and develop the land in the South, used the area as a bonsai garden to enjoy the flowers, cock fighting and performance of hát bội. So the garden was called ‘Vườn Ông Thượng’.  In the French reign, the garden joined to the land of Dinh Toàn Quyền (Reunification Palace now). In 1869, the French built Miss Clavel Street (Huyen Tran Cong Chua St) to separate the garden from the palace. The garden officially named Jardin de la Ville. The garden was also called ‘Vườn Bờ Rô’. When the French withdrew in 1954, it was changed the name to Vườn Tao Đàn (Tao Dan Garden).
Now, it is called Tao Dan Park. Several years ago, Truong Dinh Street divided the park into two parts. It is the place to organize festivals and fairs in public holidays. Moreover the park has a collection of sculpture stone statues, a Cham Tower and a Hung Kings Temple.
References:
The website of Culture Information Department of District 1
‘Sai Gon Nam Xua’ by Vuong Hong Sen and ‘Sai Gon Trong Mat Toi’ by Phung Nghi

Text and photos by Tu Anh
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