Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Water Puppet Show–a sight to see

(click on any picture to see it well)

The AWA does NOTHING if they don’t put together a well rounded vacation.  We trekked, we massaged, we shopped, we relaxed and next we got to go to a village to see a Water Puppet show.  Where we were was where this age-old art originated.  I believe the name of the village is Hai Du’ong (from looking at the theater picture at the bottom of this)

It is QUITE the thing, and from what we understand there are competitions all over Asia.  The puppets are wood and are lacquered to protect them from the water.  The puppeteers stand in waist deep water behind a screen to maneuver their puppets which are on long sticks.  Here’s the thing…they can’t SEE when they are doing this and there are many puppets in the water at the same time…so it is quite the feat of choreography. At any one time there could be ten or twelve puppets in the water!

Before the show we ate in the village, once again, it was a yummy meal. This gentleman is our host.  He crafted the puppets he is holding.

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After lunch we toured the village. We saw mostly older people.  They were friendly and waved.  I tried to be respectful and not get too close.

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If you haven’t guessed by now..there is a TON of work that goes into the a woman is drying it…she’s pretty good with the “flip” action huh?

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Everyone is always working.

There was a school right next to the theater (ok..the lagoon with stadium style seating).  The kids waved to us, and as the performance started, local villagers came out to watch…everyone likes a show.

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IMG_1454(yes, she has black teeth, they are stained by choice!)

Here is the “theater”: See how big the water area is?  They use it all!


Not soon after the show started, the sky opened up and it started to POUR!

We huddled under a strategically placed tarp.  Here’s a pic of  the puppetry and of us trying to stay dry.



I am SO sad I don’t have better pics of the puppets.  We were invited back stage, but the thunder made that thought just a little dangerous, so we ran to the bus and headed back to Hanoi.

Once we checked into the hotel, Diane grabbed a seat and the remote.  I went online…we were back to what we were used to!


A Hair-raising Train ride and Halong Bay (one of the newest 7 Natural Wonders of the World)


After we were done trekking and cleaning up at the “day” hotel (a hotel you rent for a couple hours), we jumped on the night train back to Hanoi. 

Before we got to go SEE one of these 7 wonders, there was a price to pay.

I wrote about the night train UP to Sapa.  It was terrific.  I actually slept, thanks to Betty handing out earplugs.  I saved mine, I was going to need them.  Now, it was the same type of train, however, the tracks seemed much more “rickety”.  And again what went up, had to go down.  I seem to be the ONLY one who was awake for this, but on the way to Hanoi, we made a few stops, hooked up more cars, and then…headed DOWN the mountain.

There was at least twice during the night the train came to a complete stop and then SLOWLY, we headed down.  I mean DOWN.  put your hand out parallel to the floor…do it, I will wait.  Then drop your wrist down.  THAT is the pitch of the slope.  Now, imagine being in bed, trying to stay IN the bed, and praying, the train stays ON the tracks.  Two things came to mind as we crept along.  1) THIS is the stuff of CNN headlines: Train de-rails in Vietnam, Americans among the dead. 2) When I see my father again (he will be in heaven, I’m hoping for visiting hours with him) HE WILL KILL ME for being ON the darn train in the first place!  What WAS I thinking?????

Needless to say, we were fine.  Seeing this train travels daily, I’m sure they are pretty good at getting people down that mountain.

We cleaned up, had breakfast, and were on the bus to head to Halong Bay.  At the time, it was in the running to become one of the new 7 natural Wonders of the World (it has since been voted in).

First, we got to stop to do some shopping.  I liked this trip b/c while we had some time to shop, we did NOT do a ton of it. 

Vietnam is known for its’ lacquer wares, embroideries and silk. 

We stopped at a place where disabled young adults actually produce some of these works. They sit in rows and painstakingly paint pictures and embroider large and small pieces. The embroidery is done in long-stitch.

We only had a little over an hour so it was like a surgical strike once we got in there.

I bought a couple embroideries and a lacquer jar for change.  Diane bought a larger piece, and she got to meet the young lady that actually did the work.

Here is one lady at work and Diane with her artist! (click on the pic to see the detail!)

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After our quick shopping, it was off to the boat for our cruise.  We were only going to be on the boat for a night, but they had lots of things planned.  When I go back I would like to stay longer ON the boat! I would love to take Corey there for a weekend.

Here is the boat and the surrounding area:

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Halong Bay is known for the multitude of outcroppings.  These are limestone karsts.  Karsts take 20 million years to form under the impact of this very tropical environment. (I think its’ new designation is well deserved just for THAT!)

More pictures!  I wish they were better!

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We unpacked and pretty quickly moved off the boat to go on a tour of a local village that lives ON the water.  They even have a person on a boat who goes “houseboat” to “houseboat” to sell groceries.  Now, imagine…this is ON the water…so the human waste goes in the water…just sayin’…but they HAVE lived this way forever.

IMG_1378 Selling their wares.

IMG_1380Diane, Amanda, Betty, Hannah

Here is some local life:



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Don’t worry, the hats are borrowed!  That is me, Chris and Ramona!

We got done w/the tour and headed back to the boat.  I stayed on the boat while others went over to the Pearl farm.  Other people on the boat took the time to swim and some even jumped off the top of the boat!  It was great and much fun to watch.

We showered and had a lovely dinner and cocktails upstairs.  The next morning Diane and I had massages instead of heading off to the caves.  I enjoyed that, and it gave us a chance to pack and reorganize ourselves.

IMG_1409Here is most of our group…Sadly, two were missing from the shot Sad smile 

Next, a water puppet show, more Hanoi, eating a baby duck (oh my!) and the flight home.

Stay tuned!

Vietnam–More Trekking & BUBBLES

Click on any picture to see it larger (I know they are the most interesting things!)

Our time in Sapa was coming to a quick close.  We had a 9am start again.  We packed our bags for we were leaving on the night train.

Our second day of trekking brought MY FAVORITE MEMORY of Vietnam (well, except for the exquisite massage the night before)

Tamara came on this trip via Colorado.  She is a friend of Hannah’s and when Hannah asked her, she jumped to come to Hong Kong and then Vietnam. Tamara got the BRILLIANT idea to bring bubbles (you know, bubbles) with her to entertain the local children. (stay tuned)

Our first stop was a local school. First of all, not all of the children GO to the local schools…this is a case in point. Even if they don’t go there, they do come and hang out and play a little bit. 

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The schools are ALL bright yellow and very cheery buildings

IMG_1261The children were outside doing their exercises when we got there.  Hannah and Ramona thought they would join in too!

IMG_1263(there was NOT a uniform for the trip..this was a coincidence Smile )

There are 5 rules from Confucius on the walls of every school in Vietnam. I only know the last one says to keep Vietnam clean.  Sadly, this is NOT happening as the mountains are terribly littered. 

IMG_1270 The students are terrific at working on their own:

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Their handwriting is beautiful.  This young lady loved seeing her picture in my camera.

IMG_1264Here is another classroom.  After we did a quick look around (the teacher’s encouraged it), I headed outside and THIS is where the bubbles came in!

Tamara gave a couple of bottles of bubbles to the teachers and she had broken hers out and was entertaining the crowds with them.  OH MY!  The joy and jumping was just something to see!

IMG_1279 Look at the littlest boy with his arms opened wide…you can jusssttt see the bubbles…I am only seeing his face. Here is one more…CLICK ON THESE  they are worth seeing larger!

IMG_1282 We each dropped a little donation into the box to help support the school and off we went for another beautiful day of trekking.  Right outside the school we were again “ambushed” by local women.  Today’s trail was pretty straight forward, and we tended to break off into little groups.  Again I just headed towards the front…trying unsuccessfully to avoid the “ambush.”  The women spoke pretty decent English and shared their stories with us.

Here are a few snaps from the area: (3rd pic – check out the baby!)

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A quick rest and we continued.  That is Diane and I. In the next pic is Thang.  Look behind Amanda (in the red)…one of our “ambushers!”

IMG_1308 Not too busy to wave!

IMG_1311 Here is Ramona.  These trees just stood out in the middle of this area that was all rice paddies.

We soon came to our place for lunch.  Everyday we ate locally…and everyday it was YUMMY!  In the Village, more buying commenced.  THEN, out came the bubbles!

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Again the faces are just priceless! So here’s the thing I notice as I look back at these pictures.  Yes, the children are dirty…they live in a “dirty” place b/c of the dust, etc. Yes, the place is littered (very sad to us) however, there is a happiness…really take a look at the women as they talk shopping with Tamara.

They are just the nicest people!

After lunch we walked up to a Salmon farm that is privately owned.  It was beautiful with the fresh water flowing off the mountains into the waiting pools of fish!

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Ramona, Laradona, Diane and Hannah…it was HOT!

We finished our hike WAY too early, so Thang kind of had us walk around various places until it was time to go!  During these walks we came across more traffic jams;

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Yes, we moved for them.  We also saw more families working together.  Sometimes the families need help and others come and are hired on:

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The work seems endless and because of the manual-ness of it…it must be backbreaking.

IMG_1339 This was the person who “ambushed” Diane and she invited Diane (I followed) into her home.  She was very proud of it and really wanted us to stay.  She was pulling the red chairs over for us to stay.  Here she stores “her” rice and the rice of others.  Sparse is just not quite the right word…it was less than sparse.


Here are a couple more pics of this beautiful land.  Next, we checked into our “day hotel” for a shower and to get ready for the night train back to Hanoi.  THAT is another story!