Zumba Round the World: Hanoi

It had been ages since we had been to a real Zumba class! We visited one in Dallas when we were home for the holidays, but not since then. We’d had a chance to experience a few other aerobics classes in Phnom Penh, Sukhothai, and Bangkok, but we were itching for another real Zumba class experience.

When we arrived in Hanoi and searched the Zumba website, we knew we might be in luck. However, the class we actually went to was found just as we were walking around the city. There was a gym called XFitness only a few blocks from our hotel and it had a sign for Zumba in the window!

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We found out that we could buy a day pass for 110,000 dong (around $5.00), which is quite expensive for Vietnam standards but not too bad for a Zumba class by US standards. The gym was fancy with luxurious locker rooms and even a sauna, so we decided to come for a 6:20 class on the following day.

We were quite exhausted after a long day on our feet sightseeing in Hanoi so were feeling a little lazy about getting to the class. But, like most things, we knew we would be glad once we were there, so we pushed ourselves out the door, through the rainy weather, up the elevator to the 7th floor for XFitness, and into the class.

The class was excellent! It was very high energy and included a lot of reggaeton and popular music. There were actually two instructors. We never really could figure out who was the main instructor and who was learning… or maybe this class just normally has 2! They were both young women with great moves and a lot of energy.

We both had to work hard to keep up with the class, but Eric was pleased that he was not the only guy there! We think we were a bit of a novelty in the class, which is strange because Hanoi seemed to be a very cosmopolitan city. But most people seemed quite surprised to see us there and weren’t sure what to make of it.

We thanked one of the instructors afterwards, but she didn’t seem to speak too much English. Another woman told us that it was a new job for that instructor, so we congratulated her on a job well done and headed out to clean up in the locker rooms. (We didn’t make use of the sauna though!)

Overall, we had a great time and were quite excited to finally get into another Zumba class!

Dancing in Sukhothai and Bangkok, Thailand

The heat of Sukhothai was sticky and oppressive, even though it was finally dark. Despite that, we were excited about the prospect of visiting a new town, and hungry for some delicious Thai street food. As we exited the hotel, we saw lights dancing across the river and could hear the bass booming. Something was going on! We wandered across the bridge and found ourselves in a lively night market, boasting all sorts of yummy Thai delicacies- most of which we didn’t even know what they were. We browsed the choices, noticing coconut drinks, fried squids, unidentified balls of something squishy (and delicious, it turns out), Sukhothai style noodles, and frying Roti. After stuffing ourselves, we found our way out of the market into the adjoining park where people we relaxing, working out, and watching a dance performance.

 

About 20 women, wearing what looked like cheerleader uniforms, were dancing together in the middle of the park in front of the stage of musicians. The dances looked memorized and rote, as if they were well known line dances and occasionally other women from the audience would join. The music was loud, the lights were flashing, and people were watching. We settled ourselves down on nearby steps to take in the sight.

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It wasn’t long before a local man – gregarious, bearded, and possibly drunk – ran up to to us, bringing plastic chairs. They somehow had appeared and he wanted us to have them. He found more and more till each of us had a seat. Then, he waggled his eyebrows, wiggled his hips, and threw out a hand to Della. Somehow, he must have known that it is impossible for her to say no to a dance. He led her to the stage, where they joined in with the rest of the women who were now doing some sort of circle line dance.

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The man wriggled and shook, and sort of followed the group. Della tried to pick up the steps and after a few shared smiles with the other women felt like part of the group. A few laughs were shared through a few more dances until the friendly man brought her back to the family. With a quick smile and bow to Eric and Wayne, he disappeared back into the park to join his friends.


As in Phnom Penh, the ladies of Bangkok (and some men) enjoy a good dance aerobics class. We had enjoyed Lumbini Park on our first trip through the city, and were pleased to learn that there should be dancing in the evening there. After a bit of a lazy, more at home kind of day, which consisted of sleeping in, heading to the mall for lunch, and watching a new release movie, we took a train to the park.

There was slight wind, which was a great relief as it wafted by us, slightly cooling our sticky bodies. We wandered through the throngs of joggers, walkers, and general exercisers until we found an area with big speakers set up. We stopped to wait, assuming we had found the place, though there seemed to be no gathering people. We entertained ourselves by watching a group of young Thai men practicing their acrobatic skills – running and flipping off of the rocks on the grass.

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As it got a little later, people began to converge on the spot, and suddenly, the music boomed out and it was time to start. The group became huge, close to a hundred dancers, with up to 3 or 4 leaders, spread out so all could see. We danced hard, working up quite a sweat. The routines were simple and easy to follow and we felt in our element.

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But, all too soon, after only about 25 min, there was a quick stretch and the music stopped. What? So soon? We drank down a bunch of water, trying to rehydrate after we had sweat all of water out, and began to pack up to head home. But then, the loudspeakers played the song we had come to recognize. The music must have said: prepare yourselves, it is almost 6 pm, it is time for the national anthem and respect to the king to be paid. Movement continued, people continued to talk, joggers kept jogging until 6 o’clock on the dot. The anthem started to play and the entire moving park came to a stop. The streams of runners, the walkers, dancers, and even the acrobatic kids were still for the anthem – about a minute. And then it was done, the pause button unpressed, and life moved on.

Our dance class started back up. Part 2 was much harder, much more complicated! They must do the same class every evening, but there were those around us who knew exactly what to do, with almost no instruction. It became more and more tricky with long sequences back and forth and even turning around in circles. We flailed around, not really able to keep up with the group, but enjoying our clumsy attempts. Another 30 min passed, we admit this one went a bit slower. We were relieved, sopping wet, when the stretching finally came.

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Once again, we really enjoyed participating in a non-tourist activity, and seeing a community come together to exercise in the evening. All these cities in Asia really have it right!

 

Zumba* Around the World: Phnom Penh

It has been far too long since we’ve found a good Zumba class. In Phnom Penh, we found a semi-equivalent which was even better in a couple of ways!

We had read/heard that almost every evening, many Phnom Penh residents gather in different parts of the city to do aerobics classes. The Lonely Planet recommended the Olympic Stadium as one area where you would be sure to find several groups.

We made sure to head that way one evening. We arrived as the air was cooling and the sun was starting its descent. As we approached the stadium we saw all sorts of people of all ages and genders! Some were playing volleyball or soccer, others were walking or running, and still others were just enjoying the sights and chatting with friends or family.

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We entered the stadium and found not one, but at least 4 different groups of dance aerobics. Each led by a young male instructor and rocking to the beat of loud Cambodian music. We watched for a few minutes and then picked a group that seemed to be suitably high energy.

It was similar to Zumba, though a bit less choreographed, so it was quite easy to jump right in. It was a lot of fun to watch people of all ages doing the dances. There were older to middle aged to young women. There were also several men of most ages as well.

We danced for about 30 minutes before there was a break. During the break, a local woman came up and tried to chat with us. Her English was a bit difficult to understand, but her smiles and friendly shoulder taps were unmistakable.

A little later, a young man joined us as well. He was a student and tried to explain a bit more about the evening events. He explained that they do aerobics every night and then a short pause and then the “dancing” would start. We were perplexed what the difference could be, so we waited around to see.

When they started dancing again, it seemed as if everyone already knew the dances. Our young man friend explained that some were traditional dances. Then we started doing line dances! There were several, including one that seemed like it was almost the electric slide!

We absolutely loved this experience! There was something really special about a huge community coming together and dancing together. People were not self-conscious or worried what others would think! Instead, they all just moved together, people of all different ages and backgrounds. It was fantastic!

We were so enthusiastic that we made a point to go again when we returned to Phnom Penh for just one night before flying off to Laos. We were so disappointed when we got to the stadium and the dances weren’t happening!! Our only thought was that it was cancelled because of the Chinese New Year. Many shops and restaurants were closed as well. So disappointing! =( But we still really enjoyed the first experience!

 

Zumba Round the World: Athens, Greece

We had to take a slightly unscheduled trip to Athens. It was kind of a bummer to give up a little bit of our time in the Peloponnese but it did have its merits! We are bed bug free AND we got to do our 4th Zumba Round the World! We were lucky to find another Zumba class quite near our AirBnB in Athens. We were a little unsure because the Zumba site said that there would be a class at the same location at both 8 and 9 pm! We decided to head to the 8:00 class after we finished up dinner with our new travel friends. This was slightly unfortunate because we were still full from a yummy dinner when we got started dancing. And this class was high energy! Maria from Baila Conmigo Dance and Fitness made sure we got sweaty and sore! She did a lot of incorporated squats in her class which was something we sorely needed (pun intended!)

We found out when we arrived that it was the first day of her 8:00 Thursday class. It was lucky for us because it meant that the class wasn’t too big and Della got to have her space. She craves her space when she’s dancing Zumba! Eric was excited because, even though the class was small, he wasn’t the only man!

Maria explained that she had started the 8 pm class because her 9 pm class had gotten too crowded. It was much busier as more students streamed in after we were finished and Maria started her 2nd upbeat class of the night (wow!)

We area heading back to Athens in a few days to meet up with Della’s family (yay!) and there might even be time for us to head to Maria’s class again! Super excited!

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Zumba Round the World: Kotor, Montenegro

We decided we needed slow down a little bit after a fast paced 14 days with Della’s parents, so we found a place we liked in Kotor, Montenegro. We hunkered down in a comfortable apartment for a week, a few minutes outside the old town. We were only a 5 minute walk to a pretty fancy mall, which surprised us. The great thing about this was that there was a gym within this mall that offered Zumba every day! We went to our first class on a Monday afternoon at 4 pm. The instructor, Duda, was super welcoming and excited to have us! She explained that her Monday classes are a bit smaller because they are early in the day and we were glad to have some space to dance. There were about 6 students in that class and they were all friendly and really made us feel welcome in their class. Unfortunately, Duda also mentioned that in Montenegro, it was not very typical for men to dance, so Eric felt a little uncomfortable. The class was a lot of fun! Duda incorporates some isolations at the beginning of class and some yoga at the end, so it was unique!

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Anticipation: before class starts!

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Sweaty after class with the lovely, talented Duda!

Della enjoyed the class so much that she went back a second time later in the week. The second class was quite a bit bigger as it was later in the day, but again, everyone was so kind! It was a blast and really helped with a little of the homesickness we’ve been feeling to have a regular Zumba class to attend. Thank you, Duda for a wonderful time! If you ever find yourself in Kotor, Montenegro, check out her Zumba classes!

 

Zumba Round the World: Bratislava

After almost a month of Zumba withdrawal, we were able to find another convenient class! We spent two nights in Bratislava, Slovakia. Luckily, we were able to find a class quite close to our Airbnb. Even more lucky, it turned out that it was Daniela Cavojec Cesnekova.

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She is not only a ZES (Zumba Education Specialist), but the very first Zumba instructor in Slovakia. Needless to say, her class was excellent! Lots of people and energy! We felt a little clumsy actually as it was clear that we were two of only three non-regulars in the class! We warmed up with Shakira’s Dare (La La La). Then we had a good variety after that. We feel fortunate to have been able to go to this class!

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Wow! It was great to get back in the Zumba saddle, and we were definitely feeling out of Zumba shape!

Check out a video of Daniela! It was a great class!

 

Check out the rest of our Zumba Round The World posts.

Zumba Round the World: Cape Town

We finally managed to do our first edition of Zumba Round the World. We had a bit of a Zumba Fail last week when we tried the first time. Using the Zumba website, we tried to find a class near our location in Cape Town. We found one about 20 min away walking. We walked all the way there only to find the address barred. It looked as if it was up a stair into an apartment. We checked and double checked the address and couldn’t figure it out. We even stood around for quite awhile to see if anyone else entered, but it looked as if the website had lied to us. Boo.

We tried again later in our week in Cape Town. We found a fitness center that offered Zumba. We were scared off at first because we had heard that it was going to cost us R170 (about $17) each to go to the class… Definitely not what we wanted to do. But after called the fitness center, Virgin Active, on Sunday- we found out that it was a open weekend- all classes free! Score!

We enjoyed our first class. It was lively and fun with a great instructor, Cindy! We recognized several songs, even one that I used to teach in my classes. But there were a lot of new ones too. Mostly hip hop, reggaeton, and cumbia. It was fantastic to be back in a class after close to 2 months without Zumba!

Can’t wait to find our next Zumba class!

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First Goodbyes

We are getting closer and closer to the departure date of our trip. We’ve definitely been getting swept up in the anticipation. Luckily, a lot of things are coming together for us: we have both spoken to our jobs and have a start date for our leaves, we have someone potentially lined up to rent our house, we have a plan for our kitty, we have major plane tickets booked and a safari planned! But, there are definitely some things we are not looking forward to. I had to face one of those tonight.

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Today I taught my last Zumba class at Dancing the Soul. It is a wonderful dance studio where I have worked for almost the last three years. It’s a strange thing to say goodbye to something that has been a constant part of your world and routine for so long. It was also time to say farewell to some of the wonderful women I have been dancing with every Wednesday!

Saying goodbye is never an easy task. I know that this will be the first of many goodbyes we will have to undertake before we leave in just over 2 months. It will be goodbye to family, friends, routine, familiar faces and places. While I am so excited for the adventure this trip will be, I am dreading the part where I have to do things like this.

But enough with the sad stuff for now… back to the anticipation. Even though I will be leaving Dancing the Soul, I hope to not give up Zumba for the year. One of our goals is to attend Zumba classes in as many different places as we can! Just keep your eye out for posts tagged Zumba Round the World and I’ll let you know what it’s like to Salsa in Slovakia or Cumbia in Kathmandu!

For those of you who can’t wait to dance around the world, check out this song!  Zumba Round the World (All Around the World by Paulina Rubio)