Saturday, February 29, 2020

Sex And Violence At The Water Puppet Show*

Our next stop on the luxury trip to Ha Long and our cruise was in a village way off the freeway, Yen Duc, expressly built, I surmise, to feed and entertain luxury cruise travelers such as ourselves.

According to the Dung Dynasty scholar Quang Phuc Dong,** water puppetry began in the 11th century as something to do while the rice was growing. Almost certainly it is related to the monsoon. The stage typically is a pond built for theatrical purposes. Four or as many as eight puppeteers are concealed in a building at the head of the pond, manipulating the wooden/lacquered puppets through their motions by way of bamboo poles. The performance is accompanied by music (piped in, very loud), a chorus (similar to classical Greek theater) that comments on the action and sometimes warns the puppets of impending threats. Typically, half a dozen stories are told, chiefly of traditional village life. I was particularly impressed by the dragons and their gyrations, so to speak, resulting in a baby dragon, and the farmer violently chasing a fox away from his ducks. Afterwards, we were served the first of many very large Vietnamese meals, many, many courses. And then we were back in our luxury vans for the final leg of our trip to Ha Long.
Yen Duc Water Puppet Theater

The chorus belting out their lip-sync introduction

Traditional farming sketch

Dragons doing what dragons must do

An egg rises to the surface

And, voila, a baby dragon

Farmer fends off fox attacking his ducks


Battered fox retreats

Life is good

The puppeteers; all in (Orvis?) waders probably manufactured not far from here

Our table

And we are on the road again

Now passing the huge Ha Long beach, freshly groomed and planted

Lest anyone think of Ha Long as a quaint fishing village and port...

Clearly, there are big plans for this place

*the title refers to the great Peter Cook's "Memoirs of a Miner"

**apologies to the late great linguist James McCawley...

On The Road To Ha Long

Vicki had booked us into a three-day cruise on Bai Tu Long Bay, followed by a couple days' light trekking in Sapa, up in the mountains. Travel to and from both places was to be by a "luxury" van, seating 9 in a pinch, but normally 6 or fewer. So on February 20th, we stowed some of our gear at the O'Gallery and then rode, in luxury, to Ha Long, the port from which the Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay cruises depart. The road to Ha Long was memorable, for the luxury, the scenery (rice paddies), the company (especially a nice couple from Durham (England)), and the at an interesting bus-stop/shopping mega-center, the other for lunch and the long-awaited water puppet show. The latter will require its own separate post. Of course.
Interior of one of the four luxury vans we used; the ceiling
lights of course changed colors, from yellow, to green, to
pink, to blue, etc. We turned the TV off before any other
passengers loaded

After the hour it took us to get out of Hanoi, the scenery turned to rice paddies,
some with towns

Some with cemeteries


Interesting monuments and architecture


And more rice paddies

At length, we turned into this unpromising-looking place, evidently a plant for
the fabrication of sculpture and lawn ornaments and such; our first rest-stop


Not the old-fashioned way

All kinds of cool Asian lawn and shrine ornaments

If too big for your suitcase, easily shipped back home

Satisfied customers

But wait! There's more! Under one football field sized roof, practically every
kind of product you can buy in Vietnam: clothing, hats, shoes, jewelry, food,
souvenirs, booze (including a cafe and full bar), art, candy, you name it

You can even buy pickled cobra  (tastes like pickled chicken
I was told)
An amazing, not to be missed place; after 30 minutes' restful shopping, we were
back on our way

Fortunately, luxury vans don't stop at places like this

Friday, February 28, 2020

Hanoi Out-Takes

We get our news over the internet and rarely turn on the TV, even when there
are CNN or BBC options; Vicki was running through the local channels one
night and happened upon this cooking show and seeming vegematic demo

Typical t-shirts

I prefer chicken or pork but concede there is no disputing
matters of taste

Vicki has become adept at spotting

Today's wedding pix

She's looking at her phone, of course

You can't win if you don't play

If only it were blue

City park rules

Never saw a squirrel in Hanoi

They don't wear black pajamas anymore

Swirling ad holders; should have made a video of all four going at once

Police truck

Trees always win

Outside a government building: I interpreted this to mean "don't use old-fashioned
cameras"; Vicki said good luck explaining that to the police

In the two+ weeks we've been here, Vietnam has had 16
confirmed cases, all now recovered; they were the first to
close off flights and borders from China

The greening of Hanoi: first building