Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Good morning, Vietnam !!!

Once I landed in Hanoi, I grabbed a ride in a van into the Old Quarter of town. It's a very picturesque and historic section of Hanoi with a lot of the older buldings, low-end tourist hotels and great places to eat. I got a room for US$10 with A/C, cable TV, a refrig, a telephone, a balcony, two single beds and a half a dozen pieces of ornately carved (and very heavy) mahogony furniture. I took a tour of the city on Sunday and visited Ho Chi Minh's masoleum. (He's preserved like Mao and Lenin.) Lots of guards and, of course, pictures were forbidden. We also saw the residences where he stayed when he was living in Hanoi. There's also a large museum that's worth visiting that carefully documents his rise to power. After that, we went to the "Temple of Literature" which is a series of historically-important old buildings that originally housed a 13th century university (of sorts) for the study of Confucianism and his ethical way of living in the world. Lots of statues of Chinese deities, incense, candles, etc. According to my guide, most people in the north believe in a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Tonight, I attended a performance of the world-famous Hanoi Water Puppets at their theatre here by the lake near the Old Quarter. This art form can be traced back to the 11th century when the farmers used it to entertain each other in the rice paddies during the monsoons. The 60 foot "stage" is really a rectangular pool of green water. Behind it, you can see a traditional gold and red pagoda with carved dragons. The puppets (people, dragons, birds, fish, water buffalo, etc.) are mounted vertically at the end of long poles which are then moved horizontally under the water by a half a dozen workers hidden behind the pagoda. The puppets can raise their arms, turn their heads and interact in surprising ways with each other. The hour-long presentation included live music and singing from the eight excellent musicians sitting to the left of the stage. They played very traditional instruments, and the music was both uplifting and haunting. According to the literature, the Hanoi Water Puppets have traveled to many other countries... including the U.S. Very unique, indeed. I'm off to Ha Long Bay tomorrow. More later...


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