,,,We really enjoyed the Hanoi Water Puppet Show. This is an ancient Vietnamese art, telling the tales of village life through puppetry and produced in a pond of water. When we left the theatre, we hired a taxi to take us to our chosen restaurant for dinner. This was our first evening in Vietnam and were not used to the currency, VD33,000 = GBP1 (Vietnamese Dong) or VD21,000 = USD 1. The taxi meter read 550 and we could not understand how it could be either VD550,000 nor in fact VD55,000, as one was too much and the other too little – however the driver insisted that it was VD550,000 that would be the equivalent to about GBP17 (USD26) to go a short distance. We later learned that the fare should have been VD55,000, so we were ripped off big time! However, the meal made up for it as it was incredibly cheap by Western standards. The Vietnamese cuisine is excellent, with lots of things like chicken,sea food, or meat wrapped in small parcels with vegetables – the wrapping would generally be either rice paper or the leaf from a banana tree, and, of course, there are the unmentionables that you hope will not get put on your plate by mistake!
The following day, we went to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, which provided a wonderful collection of items reflecting the ethnic minorities, across South East Asia. We saw model figures dressed in the traditional costume of that particular group, and model farms and work places of days gone by, plus family occasions, including weddings and funerals, with lots of photographs. We were also introduced to the different skills and crafts. The visit was very interesting and informative. Later on in the day, we visited the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. We saw mainly 20th century art on display, including some excellent watercolours and oil paintings. There were plenty of good quality contemporary paintings and a fine selection of beautiful lacquer paintings, including huge panels and screens – also there can be seen folk art and not to forget, the political propaganda in the form of posters.
The next day we spent strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake and returning to the Old Quarter, as we said we would. The sun was shining and the lake looked at its best, with the many courting couples, joggers and the locals practicing their daily Tai Chi. After crossing the bridge and visiting a pagoda, we left the lake to head towards the Old Quarter. Once there, we stood and admired the beautiful architecture and were amused by the motor bikes carrying full loads of merchandise that was protruding in all directions. It is quite unbelievable the amount of goods that get transported on these bikes. It is also amazing to see a whole family travelling on one motor bike and that is common place, usually mum, dad and two kids on one bike. We walked in and out of the various shops, normally walking out faster than walking in, if you can handle the constant hassle of the traders there are bargains to be had. The atmosphere is electric and we thoroughly enjoyed our day. Once again, we reflected that Hanoi had vastly exceed our expectations – it captures all the senses, sight, sound, smell, touch etc.