For Chinese New Year back in February, we went to Vietnam. I can’t believe how long it has taken me to post this (well, actually I can, it has been a crazy busy year!), but better late than never!
We have been traveling around Southeast Asia quite a bit recently since we live so close to the Hong Kong airport, which makes it very quick and cheap to travel around the region. Even though most Americans don’t typically think of Vietnam when pondering vacation choices, I had heard great things over the years about it from Australians and Europeans, so it had long been on my list as a place to check out. While there are many cities to visit in Vietnam, we decided to just go to Hanoi. It is a smaller city but it is only a couple of hours from Halong Bay.
Unfortunately, we went during Lunary New Year, which Vietnam also celebrates (they call it Tết). Similar to in China, the Vietnamese usually travel home for Tết, so most of the shops and restaurants were closed when we arrived! Oops! But thankfully they usually only take two or three days off, so the city wasn’t empty for long.
Since there was nothing to do in Hanoi, we booked a cruise at Halong Bay. That was wonderful! Halong Bay is beautiful and cruising is just so relaxing and carefree. I would be interested in going back to Halong Bay just to do a longer cruise. I would also be interested in going on other cruises in the future.
When we got back to Hanoi, things were starting to open up, so we caught a Water Puppet show. I have a weird fascination with puppets (I blame Sound of Music) and I have a decent collection of antique (over 100 years old) and reproduction puppets from around the world. So, of course, I had to go see the dancing water puppets. We ended up going to two water puppet shows at two different theaters in Hanoi. The shows were very similar in story and structure, so if you are in Hanoi and you aren’t sure which theater to go to, I don’t think it matters.
Dating back to at least the 11th century, the Vietnamese would use flooded rice paddies as a stage for wooden water puppets to dance on. This folk tradition has evolved into today’s water puppet shows. The theaters today have waist-deep pools of water as a stage. There is a black screen that hides the puppeteers from the audience. The pools is flanked by musicians and singers. The puppets are made of wood and painted with lacquer to protect them from the water. Sometimes the dragon puppets even spout fireworks!
The water puppets shows were some of the coolest things I have seen in my travels and I would definitely recommend them and watch them again (I also brought home three puppets for my collection!). I’m really surprised that I had never heard of water puppet theater before or seen some rendition of it in America. I guess you will have to go to Vietnam and see this awesome cultural performance art for yourself!