Hanoi Times – on a Friday night two weeks ago, crowding a glassed-in mezzanine that will one day hold a salad bar, men seated by the dozen at long tables paid little attention to their plates full of gourmet pizza and pastries or glasses of red wine, tending instead to successive cigarettes. Conversation was barely audible beneath the belting, amplified vocals of a traditional singer, dressed in a shiny blue ao dai, turban, and heavy stage makeup, who swayed and gestured earnestly with microphone in hand just a meter from the crowd. This scene was playing out at the opening-night party for the Actilife Fitness Club, a cutting-edge gym located at the base of a high-rise in the four year old Trung Hoa-Nhan Chinh urban area, part of a ring of real-estate developments that, coming up around the outskirts of the city centre, cater to Hanoi’s growing number of upper-income residents. Elsewhere at this evening hour, the streets are usually clogged with traffic, their sidewalks thick with vendors, pedestrians, or the huddled patrons of endless foodstalls. By contrast, the paved grid criss-crossing this zone of condo blocks and residential towers was lined only with parking spots. The only people in…
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