A View of Vietnam

- hanoi - halong bay - hue - hoi an - danang - saigon -

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Beautiful Halong Bay

I did not regret going to Halong Bay. At first, it was not even included in our itinerary. I'm glad we decided to add in this journey. And you must too, if you are going to Hanoi.

It was a long drive to the jetty. 3.5 hours away from Hanoi city. If I heard correctly from our guide, Ha, we went through 3 provinces. Actually the journey is long not because it's far in terms of distance but because the drivers are not allowed to drive fast on highways. Weird, huh? Well, they told us that they could only go 50 km/h on highways but the speed also depends on the type of vehicle.

Learn the Language
= river
Noi = within
Hanoi = within the river
Halong = river dragon

The small jetty with beautiful red flowers

The jetty is small but clean. And this is the place where we first talked to our Korean boyfriends. ;-p

Boats at the jetty

Appropriately named Bay of the Descending Dragon

to be continued...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Water Puppets

Every child or adult who is young at heart will love this show. I personally recommend everyone to watch Mua Roi Nuoc if they are going to Vietnam. They say the best shows are in Hanoi but you can also see the shows in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

This is where I watch the show. It took us a long time to find this place. How can we miss this huge building? If you know me, you know that it's nothing out of the ordinary for me to NOT see something. Sigh! But should be no excuse for my friend, right?

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi

After we checked in to our hotel in Hanoi, the first thing we wanted to do was go buy the tickets to watch the show on the same night. This is because we heard that the tickets sold out quite fast. So, armed with a map, we started walking towards the lake. Referring to the map, we knew that the theatre is at the edge of the lake, near the Ngoc Son temple.

This is what we did: - walked towards where the lake is supposed to be - saw the lake - crossed busy street - found the temple - continued walking without stopping at the temple coz priority was to get tickets - looked around - can't see theatre - walked by the lake - saw Turtle Pagoda - snap photos of pagoda - saw post office - uh oh... according to map, we had bypassed the theatre - turned around - walked back towards temple - saw temple but can't see theatre - turned around - walked away from the temple again - changed mind - turned around again - saw a tourist bus in front of a building - decided to check that building out - crossed street - walked towards building - saw the ticket counter for water pupper show - ticket counter closed...

What a waste of time? energy? breath?

Wait... not the end of story...

This is what we did next: - crossed street towards lake again - this time, crossed bridge to temple - now this is the part where i waited and waited and waited for the perfect shot of the temple entrance - talked to a trio of singaporeans whom i saw at ticket counter earlier - found out that ticket counter is opened - friend got tired of waiting - friend went back to theatre to buy tickets - me still wait - and wait - and wait - can't wait anymore - snap imperfect shot - at the end of bridge, met friend who had bought tickets (hurray!) for 6.30pm show - finally...

There are 5 shows per day - 4.00pm, 5.15pm, 6.30pm, 7.45pm and 9.00pm. We originally wanted to get the 9.00pm show but tickets were sold out. We couldn't even get front row seats. The show costs 40,000 dong. That's around RM10. The ticket includes a CD of the show's music. When you enter the theatre for the show, they will give you a paper fan. And you can take a program (available in English, Vietnamese, French and Chinese) near the auditorium entrance.

Feeling jubilant, we continued walking around the lake. This time we went the whole round, walking leisurely. At the end of the one round, back to square one, we looked up. I don't know what made us do that but lo and behold, there stood the building with the big big words 'Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre'. Now how did we miss it in the beginning?

The water puppet stage

After a hearty meal of beef noodles (I will talk more about food in another post), it's time to go for the show. Thank God the theatre is air-conditioned. We had read from the internet that the place would be hot and that's why paper fans were given to cool oneself. We sat at the 4th row from the front. Note the head sticking out in the picture above. Fortunately we were next to the aisle and I could get up and stand from time to time during the show to shoot the photos and videos.


The one hour show was wonderful. The show consists of short scenes that depict the life and beliefs of the Vietnamese people. Each scene takes place in the pool of water. The music, played by live musicians at the side of the stage, was traditionally melodic. Most of the musical instruments are similar to any Asian culture's instruments. There was a particular instrument that was unique. I didn't manage to find out its name nor snap a photo of it. It looks like chopsticks. Very cute sound it produced.

Returning to the native land after college graduation

Fairy dance

Applause to the puppeteers! The puppeteers are behind a bamboo screen and the controls are under water and out of sight. Great skills, eh?

The puppeteers at the end of the show

If you want to see short clips of the show, just let me know and I will e-mail one or two to you.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Streets of Vietnam

The streets of Vietnam are totally congested with motorbikes and bicycles. It's pon-pon here and pon-pon there and pon-pon everywhere. By the way, pon-pon means honking. Neverending honking. And you just wonder what for? We did asked them why they use the horn so much. Needless to say, we get vague replies. "We are greeting our friend in the other vehicle." Yeah right.

A street junction near the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi

It's a wonder that I did not see any road accidents while I was in Vietnam. The way they drive testify to their superb skills on manoeuvring. You can just stand in the middle of the road and they will not hit you. They just honk at you, glare at you, say a few words in Vietnamese language to you (no need to know what they said and no need to guess), and go around you.

Here's a piece of advice on how to cross a road in Vietnam. Don't look right, don't look left and don't look behind. Just look ahead and cross. Or else you will never get to cross. It's a neverending stream of vehicles, mainly two-wheelers, all the time. It takes a lot of guts to put the first foot forward.

In Hue (pronounced as "Hway"), we made a mistake of renting bicycles to cycle around the small town. That was one TERRIFYING ride. The street nearby where we stayed had little traffic. And since Hue was a small town, I thought it would be safe to cycle around. I mean, I do see some tourists doing that. But the moment we left our street, my whole body never stop shaking. All around me, on the right, left, in front and behind me, were millions and millions of motorbikes and bicycles. Ok, I'm exaggerating about the numbers but it felt that many to me. There were so many that each rider were just inches away from you.

At one point, I did a crazy thing. I knew I was going to hit the rider on my right. But I couldn't go any more forward or I would hit the rider right in front of me. I couldn't go to the left either coz that was the oncoming traffic's lane. So, I did a rather stupid thing... I jumped off my bicycle! Yep, right in the middle of the busy road. Actually, it was bridge accross a river. And fortunately for me, it was a bridge just for two-wheelers. What did I do next? I just stood there. You can imagine all the bikes honking at me. Come to think of it, the amount of honking did not really increase that much. The road was already full of it. But what did increased was people staring at me. Surprisingly, not one motorbike or bicycle hit me. In fact, not a single one even pause in their motion. They just went around me and kept on going. Of course by that time, I was already so embarassed to notice much. I could hear some people laughing at me as they passed by. It took a lot of effort to get my shaky legs and hands moving again, to get on the bicycle again and to start pedalling again. I think the heavens feel sorry for me because a few minutes later, it poured cats and dogs.