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Start your day with some dancing

There is a Russian proverb that says, “How you start the day is how you will spend it.”

In Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, I always start my day with a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake. The Vietnamese consider this lake to be the calm heart of this boisterously buzzing city. The water is dark green and opaque as jade. It is ringed by ancient trees that create a cool canopy above the stone walkways.

Beyond this verdant border are broad avenues filled with a mêlée of thousands of motorbikes, rickshaws and an occasional car or bus.

I feel safe and relaxed within this leafy tunnel with its hanging moss and shadows; it's as if I have stepped beyond the city border into a far and peaceful province.

A red footbridge arcs like a bright silk ribbon to a golden pagoda near the water's edge, and in the centre of the lake is a grey stone temple to honour a turtle.

In the 15th century, King Le Loi battled the invading army of Ming China with a magical sword given to him by the gods.

After his victory, he was crossing the lake with his courtiers when an enormous golden turtle surfaced from the still waters and asked for the return of the sword.

The king, overcome with gratitude, gave up his sword to the turtle who disappeared into the depths. Hoan Kiem Lake has been known ever since as The Lake of the Returned Sword.

Only four turtles have been seen in recent times in this freshwater lake and they are of a kind found nowhere else in the world.

One was thought to be the incarnation of the mythical turtle of King Le Loi.

Affectionately called Cu Rua, she was almost two metres long and weighed more than 400lbs. When she died in 2016, the entire country mourned her death.

I imagined the huge head of this ancient turtle emerging from the depths and looking at me with her wise brown eyes.

As I continued walking my now familiar circle around the lake, I passed older Vietnamese and Chinese moving with slow and steady grace in the ancient movements of Tai Chi and Qui Jong.

They performed these elegant ballets with inner concentration, oblivious to my admiring gaze. Others were sitting in meditation at the water's edge and some stood swinging their arms and legs to activate their inner Chi, or life force.

Then I heard the beat of a small boom box. It was playing a flamboyant cha-cha-cha from Brazil. A well-dressed group of men and women in their 50s were dancing for all they were worth to the Latin rhythm.

Moving closer, I stared openly at this delightfully incongruous scene. They were having so much fun!

Suddenly, a bubbly, smiling Vietnamese lady with a pink scarf and short black skirt ran to me, took my hand, and pulled me into the dance.

It was so spontaneous and exciting! I never expected anything like this and I laughed like a child.

She spun me off to an older Chinese man nattily dressed in a black silk shirt and slacks.

The group continued to change partners and we did not stop for a second. At eight o'clock sharp, they all got on motorbikes and sped away. They dance like this every morning before work.

How wonderful it would be to begin each day dancing barefoot on the beach in Bermuda! We could go to our jobs with sand between our toes and a happy song in our hearts.

Think of it, dear readers — starting the day dancing with our friends! We could dance our way through life sharing a happiness that starts with the rising of the sun.

Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at

Nina London dancing in Hanoi, Vietnam (Photograph by Bill Rosser)

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Published December 19, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated December 19, 2019 at 8:19 am)

Start your day with some dancing

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