Every single morning since I arrived in Hanoi the weather has been absolute crap – so overcast that at times you can’t even tell where the sun is. Sometimes it would clear up in the afternoon, but often not – leading to an experience my friends in Japan once dubbed “The Darkfternoon.”
But as if the Gods were on our side, today, my dad’s first day in Asia, we awoke to a sunny blue sky. It was the first morning sun I’ve seen since I got here. Nice!
We started bright & early with the included hotel breakfast before heading out.
The first half of the day was mostly spent setting up: finalizing reservations for our upcoming excursions, grabbing some provisions at the supermarket, making a safety-copy of his passport, etc.
Then, after quickly knocking the first couple stops off the Lonely Planet walking tour, we headed to the Water Puppet Theater.
Vietnamese Water Puppets, one of Hanoi’s more well-known attractions, are quite a bit different from what I expected. Basically tiny marionettes, they dance and perform to live music – their “stage” being a small pool of water and their “strings” being long wooden sticks under the water. The puppets include everything from humans to dragons, some even carrying torches and flame.
My only tip for future visitors would be to make sure you get a seat in the front. Not only is it worth being able to see all the detail of the puppets…but your view won’t be obscured by all the rude tourists blocking your view with their cameras.
(Many of the other spectators were unbelievably inconsiderate, taking nonstop flash photography and holding their cameras high overhead – completely blocking the view for everyone in back. So if you want to see…sit in the front!)
After the show concluded we resumed our walking tour, stopping by a few landmarks I’d passed dozens of times over the preceding week but never really “visited” (as I was always waiting for my dad).
One of the most interesting was a full variety of “theme-streets,” which I mentioned briefly before:
In Hanoi, similar businesses seem to cluster together, leading to a set of streets each with its own specialty. There’s a street where every shop sells shoes, another where every shop sells toys, another for mirrors, another for sunglasses, and so on and so forth. I guess that makes one-stop shopping quite a bit easier! 🙂
And although my dad wasn’t a fan of the smell, there was one area in particular that I personally loved:
An extremely nitty-gritty local-style wet market, complete with baskets of all kinds of creatures wiggling and writhing.
The chaos of motorbikes and people zooming in every direction was dizzying – exactly the kind of scene you’d probably envision if I were to say “Crazy Asian street market.”
Unfortunately, by this time it’d started to drizzle – so after a quick walk-through we started towards home, breaking along the way for just a quick taste of bia hoi at Bia Hoi Junction.
Besides, we did still have to repack – tomorrow morning is the start of what I’m expecting to be the highlight of our entire trip. A four-day motorcycle tour through the rural countryside and Northern mountains of Vietnam.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for good weather 😉
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Monday, May 2nd.