While you are asleep in the early morning there are some people who are very, very awake - and they are laughing at nothing. Next to Hoan Kiem Lake, beneath the statue of Ly Thai To, a man named Le Anh Son is instructing a group of perhaps 200 people in the art of Laughing Yoga. First comes the warm-up, with moans, lip-smacking, bug-eyed mouth exercises in the key of 'ooh' and 'waaah', and a snaking chain of back massaging.

Then, all at once, everybody laughs like maniacs. They stick their tongues out at each other and pull faces. It's quite quite quite strange. Half beautiful and half disturbing, sort of like the child of a Balinese Kecak dance and a Haka. It's infectious too, and as I leave these cackling exercisers, all of them high as kites, and with the air soaked in giggling endorphins, I could swear I see Ly Thai To crack a smile too - just a little one.


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