Got up at 7:15am. Slept well. No noise until the boat engine started up at around 6:30am. For breakfast had a simple meal of sweet toast (cold with Vegemite) and fruit. Departed for Halong city and arrived back there early then set off for Hanoi
, a trip of about 4 hours. I tipped the boat crew generously upon leaving to thank them for their service and allowing us to have a room each! After 2 hours of driving we stopped at Dong Thanh Porcelain ceramics factory where we saw people both cutting out and painting ceramics. A lovely lady, 37yo, drew a little flower on my forearm. She looked only about 30. She had 2 children aged 3 and 14. After the ceramics place we continued on to Hanoi and finally arrived at the Hong Ngoc Hotel.
At the porcelain factory
The room was pleasant yet very musty smelling. We headed out to lunch then to a place Y knew about but unfortunately it was shut, so we went to a place just next to the hotel that was really pretty average. I had noodles with veggies and mushrooms for 40,000D. After lunch I chilled out in the room for a while then met up with everyone to go on a cyclo tour of the Old Quarter. It was quite nice just cruising around but the pollution was scratching my throat, blocking my nose and getting grit in my eyes. It was great seeing the shops. Each shop seemed to sell, quite literally, just one thing: oven rangehoods, letterboxes, kitchen utensils, locks (bike locks, door locks, padlocks). It was interesting. At 6:30pm we finished up at the Water Puppet Theatre and went in to see the show.
Cyclo ride in Hanoi
Paid an extra 15,000D to be able to take photos during the performance. There were 17 songs in total and it went for about 45min in total. I really enjoyed the show, and I hadn't seen anything like it previously. The music was superb and the puppetry exquisite; it was amazing what the puppeteers could do with them! The theatre was packed with people, we were in the second row from the back. After it finished we decided to head to an Indian restaurant Tandoor (recommended in LP) for dinner. I had the chicken set menu for 105,000D which included 2 veggie curries, chicken korma, roti, steamed rice, raita and a pappadum. Incredibly delicious but ridiculously filling! Headed back to the hotel after that, arriving back about 9:30pm. A little more about water puppetry: it originated with rice farmers who worked the flooded fiels of the Red River Delta, about 1000 years ago.
The farmers carved the puppets from water-resistant fig-tree timber in forms modelled on the villagers themselves, animals from their daily lives and more fanciful mythical creatures such as the dragon, phoenix and unicorn. The wooden puppets can be up to 50cm long and weigh as much as 15kg, and each only lasts about 3-4 months if used continually. Eleven puppeteers, each trained for a minimum of 3 years, are involved in each performance. Before they began to wear plastic wading pants they used to suffer a number of water-borne diseases. The band included wooden flutes, gongs, cylindrical drums, bamboo xylophones and the single-stringed zither.