Vietnam is too crowded
(interview with a 21 year old female in Hòa Bình Park, November 9, 2013)


Sometimes we have to wait for hours to have a space to practice […] families bring their children to this park a lot, so we have to wait until the kids go home to practice
(interview, 23 year old female skateboarder, Lenin Memorial Park, October 20, 2013)


Hanoi’s public spaces can become densely packed with a variety of users.

For instance, at peak hours, the hard-surface plaza in the Lenin Memorial Park can host over 400 users who engaged in dozens of different activities.

VIDEO       Lenin Memorial Park Density Timelapse




Youths must work hard to secure the space for a few of their activities with high space requirements (e.g. soccer, skateboarding, inline skating, etc). Nonetheless, overcrowding rarely leads to aggressive competition between youths and other users.

Youths approach the issue of overcrowding pragmatically understanding that it is no one’s fault and the space must be shared. This involves making compromises.


In a place like this one that has so many people, it is inevitable that people will bump into each other […] Each group has its own separate areas. For example if one group plays in this area, others will automatically move to another place. […] We think it’s better because we don’t cause trouble to residents. The less impact the better. We don’t like trouble, we prefer peace

(interview, August 2, 2013)

Instead of “fighting” for space, youths blend into public spaces through strategies based on a respectful awareness of the needs of others in terms of space. Youths adopt what might be called spatio-temporal choreographies .

These involve:

Coming to the park in groups, at fixed hours
Developing synchronized habits and routines
Respecting informal agreements amongst
users about sharing the space

This supports a harmonious cohabitation of youths with other public space users. Skateboarders mingle with inline skaters, both of them winding between flocks of children playing. There are vendors, soccer players, aerobic groups, and people randomly walking or standing for a chat.

The resulting tableau is marked by a relative absence of conflicts.

People in this park are quite close to each other; we practice together and are careful to avoid conflict. People here are all very happy, friendly and social with each other.

(interview, October 20, 2013)

VIDEO       Scenes of sociability


In Hanoi’s characteristically crowded parks:

The behaviour of couples stretches social norms

Vending stalls spill out onto pathways and play spaces

Motorbikes fill hard surfaces

Kids run and roam around in toy cars

Yet users have learned to cooperate and self-regulate around their shared use and formal authorities (police, security guards) are rarely needed to solve conflicts.

Expressions of love in Hanoi’s public space are often the result of cramped housing. Intimacy is nearly impossible in students’s tiny dorm rooms, so they turn to public places: parks, lake promenades, libraries…

This is especially true in HOA BINH PARK:

This is a park for couples.
(interview, June 17, 2014)

Some expressions of intimacy are generally accepted in public spaces:

Couples walking hand in hand, sitting together, taking photos and chatting.

But problems arise when they are seen kissing or cuddling on the grass. Couples create a “space of discomfort,” an area that other users want to avoid.

“In Vietnamese traditional culture, love needs to be soft, delicate, and discreet, but also passionate. So over-expression of loving behaviour (kissing, etc.) in public space is out of line with Vietnamese standards of appropriateness. […] Such behavior should be kept private”.
(Trinh Thi Trung Hoa, a psychologist cited by Huong Giang Bao Hang, 2012)


They offer affordable services and contribute to animate public places



They offer sporting equipment that is valued by youths, such as inline skates.



They offer places to communicate and meet new people: “When you practice sport, you also want to relax, drink something, and chat with your friends. This is also a good place to talk and make friends.

(interview August 26 2013)


Vendors offer convenient and cheap food and drinks:Sometimes, when we feel tired, we can have a drink or some food without going too far from the park.”

(interview June 21 2014)



Some vendors have a “bad attitude”.



They take up too much space.



They argue aggressively for that space.



They leave trash behind when their business is done.



It is openly known that some vendors bribe the guards, and are therefore granted extra privileges in how they use the park. Read more about how vendors affect the idea of ‘publicness’ of public spaces…

“Convenient for [their owner], but not for other people.”. (interview, August 24, 2013)


Motorbikes support Hanoians’ mobility and are used by all kinds of users to access public spaces. But formal and informal parking spaces for these vehicle eat up scarce recreational space.

Users suggested:

More order in the management of motorbikes

Making parking spaces available

Better control over driving in the parks