From Haggling, to a Hanoi Water Puppet Performance

Street Life - Hanoi

Tickets for the Water Puppet Performance cost 40,000 Dong if you do not mind sitting anywhere or 60,000 Dong if you would prefer a seat in the front rows. The show lasts for about 60 minutes. Performance times are at 12 noon, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm. It is best to book a few shows or a day in advance. If you try to book a seat for the next show, the tickets will be sold out. There was a notice saying an extra charge of 20,000 Dong will be required if you want to use a camera. However, I think you can take pictures free of charge during the show. I didn’t bring mine and didn’t ask anyone who’d brought theirs, so don’t quote me on this.

I woke up still feeling chastened from the effects of Mr. Grumpy below. How much noise should I create while packing my luggage? Should I even turn my body to the other side while lying there, causing the bunk to creak? Making the structure move, even a millimetre, might disturb his hibernating highness. He – wonder of wonders – had actually got up and went down to have some free breakfast. I decided to wait until he came back. His absence was not long. He could not wait to get in-between the sheet and duvet to be enveloped in the gloom, except to take solace from the light glaring from his laptop monitor.
Not only did he not know how to address strangers politely, but he did not seem to be appreciative of the Hanoi atmosphere. It may, however, have come and gone, though somehow I doubt it. If you want to hibernate all day, perhaps you should do it in the isolated confines of your own home. Not in a place like Hanoi.
I saw hat-wearing Steve and the other Brit guys standing at the end of the alley trying to flag down a taxi to take them to the airport. They were on a tight schedule, so needed to catch the next flight to Nha Trang to chase more bars and clubs – by the beach.
Everything in Hanoi just falls at once out of the woodwork: throttling motorcyclists cramming the main streets, stores covered with rucksacks, coats, tailor-made shirts and suits neatly hung and piled, strung-up trouser belts, not to mention many souvenir stores. With an endless variety to choose from, it is a wonder some of the proprietors do any business at all.
The rushing sound of motorbikes and tooting horns on Hang Gai hits you on impact. I quickly legged it back down Ly Quoc Su to pick up my camera I had left behind in the hostel, eager to take pictures of the clutter and excitement. I passed a store which has walls covered in an assortment of daintily painted masks among other things.

Pointy Masks

I wanted to wear a baseball cap, but was not particularly interested in one of the styles with ‘Vietnam’ or the emblematic star sown above the lid. Some of these were too small for my head, anyway, so I settled on a Western beige design from a street side vendor.
“How much?”
“45,000 Dong,” declared the small elderly man.
“20,000.” I immediately thought of Steve’s performance.
“Nooow” Oops. Too low
“Okay, 30,000.”
Before getting to the Water Puppet Theatre, a short distance away, I watched a couple of tourists barter for a bag from a table covered in the canvas variety.
“100,000” the proprietor said.
“Too much!”
The puppet performance depicts old Vietnamese culture as folklore; an art form using different kinds of symbolic representative figures attached to sticks that are manipulated underwater by performers behind a green-painted straw arras. The variety of acts: peasants climbing palm trees and steering oxen, to dancing fish turning into dragons being expelled by the water, was complimented at the right hand side of the stage: instrumentalists dressed in traditional costumes playing gentle to fast Vietnamese music. It was also gracefully sung by two women vocalists who looked particularly dignified in their colourful regalia. It was almost as good and as satisfying as other oriental opera such as Chinese Sichuan, otherwise known as face-changing, or ‘Bian Lian.’
I had booked a bunk on a night sleeper to Hue, the next port of call. As I had done it through the Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel, I only had to pay half the five dollar dorm bed price at the associated backpacker’s hostel. However, given the attitude of someone like Mr. Grumpy, the whole concept of cheap dorm room accommodation could be called into question.
I wandered around with plenty of time to kill before being taken to the agency where the bus would stop to pick me up.
“Where are you going? What are you doing?’ Want massage with lady?” A man wearing a black cap accosted me in the hostel alleyway.
Another approached me with a long pile of strapped books. When I refused to buy any, his frustration blew up into “do you want massage?”
I brushed off the temptation to flush any money down a sex toilet, whatever sexual play acting was involved, and decided to wait, instead, to be taken to the night bus by one of the hostel staff.

The Stars Hangout - Hanoi

Vietnam, besides being officially socialist, is unofficially flexible regarding an accessible ATM banking system – and Facebook – making it more openly progressive than its giant neighbor in the north. It needs a hard currency flow.
I was not the only passenger who had fully expected the bus to turn up at 6:00 pm, which didn’t arrive until 8:00 pm. The two-hour wait signified perhaps an Asian style attitude; a laid-back response by the Vietnamese. A young female tour operator blamed the delay on the Hanoi traffic once an Argentinean backpacker kicked up a song and dance about it inside the booking office.
After being subjected to what I can only describe as an ‘aggressive turn’ by a street side vendor when I went to buy a packet of crisps from a nearby store, I settled down to a chilly and bumpy bus ride south.

Night Traffic - Hanoi

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