Closeup Hanoi and HCM himself

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
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Trip End Mar 08, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, February 27, 2010

We start the day  with a lecture from a fascinating woman. Nguyen Njie Ly (?) represents a generation probably the same as my own and has seen the birth of her country as a young woman; the first woman to be sent from  her new country to the states to be educated. Her parents cannot read. She spoke frankly of the countries past, present and her optimistic view of the future. I certainly have to applaud her dreams. There was no one from Vietnam in the room for her speech. She occasionally was quite frank!

We drive out to the HCM mausoleum. We give up our cameras, phones, and water bottles to Mark and Nam. They wait for us at the exit. It's a strange experience. We march in by pairs- clothing correct, hands/arms at our sides, no talking- respectfully walking by what could be a waxen image of a man who died in 1969. Spooky doesn't come quite close enough to describe the experience.

Outside in the square, Nam gives us the Uncle Ho speech. Then we continue on to walk by the presidential palace, HCM's small house and his house on stilts. While waiting in line at the HOS, my camera slips loose from the shoulder strap and falls to the ground. Crash goes the camera and my stomach. It appears to be functional, but the hinge on the battery cover is broken. I am able to latch it closed. I grip it close to my body for the rest of the review until I can sit down on the curb during a break and reweave the strap end through the loop.

The we board our strange pink bus and head to the temple of literature dedicated to Confucius. It definitely is an example of Chinese influence that existed pre-France. Then on to lunch at the Khai's Brothers' Cafe. This is an outdoor courtyard, excellent buffet- grilled seafood and satay, soups, salads, and desert. Seems like a great place to linger- sign says free wifi.

Then we drive to the ancient gateway that's part of the wall for the 1000 year old city. Nam leads us on a walk through the old quarter, snaking down narrow streets, dodging the mobs of scooters, snapping pictures of live fish and strange veggies. We end up on the edge of the lake (Hoan Kiem lake?) next to the water puppet theater which we'll see later on. J and I both buy some water color paintings- 2 for $5 seems like a bargain.

Back to the hotel then until 4:30 when we'll go back to the water puppet theater for the 5pm show. We have to hang out in the lobby bar waiting for the maid to finish our room but eventually we can relax a bit and clean up from the warm walk- not as bad as Angkor but still a bit on the hot muggy side.

The water puppet show is quite an experience. I'm not sure how this all developed- apparently a folk art form.- but its a lot of fun. Off to our left side of the stage is the small band with fairly typical instruments that we saw in China including a big red drum. The stage itself consists of a background "curtain" that's recessed well back from the front of the stage.The bottom portion looks like green mesh. The stage itself is a pool of water. The puppet masters are in the water up to nearly their waists behind the curtain. The puppets are controlled through long sticks/rods that run under the curtain in the water. They are able to animate the puppets somehow- a lot of splashing int the water with hands and feet. There are over 15 vignettes presented, staring people, birds, fish, dragons, etc etc. The band and a couple women singers accompany the puppets as they perform.

The show lasts about an hour and then we go to the Tonkin Restuarant. We eat upstairs in a private dining room of the old French mansion. The food is quite good- heavy on the seafood stir fried with diverse veggies. We also partake of several "ba-ba-ba" beers.

Then back to the hotel to pack. We leave in the morning for Hoi An.
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