Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Travel: Hanoi Day #1 - Thăng Long Water Puppet Show & sampling local Vietnamese dessert, Chè

After our heavy dinner, we decided to start making our way to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre on foot to walk off some of the calories as well as kill some time before our show.

Old Quarter at night is quite a different experience, because there are far more cars and motorcyclists at night... criss-crossing each other, honks everywhere!

One of those crazy scenes we just can't get our heads around: many balloon peddlers, with all the different types of balloons you can imagine, just casually walking around a roundabout while motorcyclists whizz around them and in between them. Some motorists even stop to chit-chat with them! o_O

There are also some mightily creative and talented crafts people in Hanoi, because beautiful crafted pop-up cards are easily available by the streets. I especially loved the traditional pop-ups, like the Vietnamese girl on her bike, or the red pagoda. Would make lovely souvenirs!

We also walked back to Hoàn Kiếm Lake (the water puppet theatre is just beside the lake) and saw the Ngọc Sơn Temple all lit up. The reflections are a bit of an eerie sight from afar because the water is so still.

Entrance to the closed Ngoc Son Temple, brightly lit up at night.

The temple closes at 5pm daily but I think the these majestic dragon marble cravings are more impressive at night. Somehow they look more lively with all the lighting. 

We also walked past further down Hang Dau Street at the northeast corner of Hoan Kiem lake (away from where the Ngoc Son Temple is), where it's shoes and shoes galore. In our exploring Old Quarter post we explained how the different trades centralize on certain streets, easily giving shoppers an abundance of choices in one location. This one's clearly for all shoe-shopaholics!

Craving some dessert after all that meat at Bun Cha Dac Kim, we decided to stop by this small, brightly-lit shop selling chè (pronounced chair).

Chè basically refers to Vietnamese dessert, like a sweet dessert soup that is a little similar to our Malaysian ais kacang only sans the ice. You can't miss chè stalls; you'll see lots of bowls containing different (and usually multi-coloured) items that are layered and mixed to make up different dessert variations.

I tried the Chè thập cẩm, a common mixed version of chè consisting of lots and lots of ingredients like banana, mung bean, lotus, taro, jellies, lotus seeds, and syrup, amongst many others. This was a nice treat that I enjoyed, with lots of different textures and flavours. 

We also tried the Chè đậu xanh with its base ingredient of sweetened ground mung bean (see the thick yellow layer?), and a version with black grass jelly (cincau). I liked the Chè đậu xanh too, mainly because I like the earthy flavour of mung beans. It wasn't ground too finely, so there was an enjoyable texture to it. Adam, who doesn't like red/green beans in general, wasn't a fan. The three cups of chè cost us 60,000 VND (approximately RM 9 / USD 3).

I was just generally very awestruck of the crazy wiring! I think you might see a pic like this in each Hanoi post...

After satisfying our sweet cravings, we made our way back to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, where the crowd for the 8pm show was already starting to form.

We paid 100,000 VND (RM 15 / USD 5) per ticket with an additional 20,000 VND for a camera pass, which is common practice in Hanoi. There are also cheaper tickets for the seats further back.

Waiting for the show to begin

The water stage, about four meters wide, is merely modest and rickety-looking, but befitting of the traditional folk tales the puppets were about to tell.

A pretty narrator brings you through each act in Vietnamese with the English text is flashed on screen before the puppets start the show.

The puppets are made out of lacquered wood and attached to long bamboo wooden sticks which are actually manipulated by puppeteers backstage. According to the narration, this used to be practiced by the farmers in water-logged paddy fields and is an art that is passed down from generation to generation. 

The show is made out of about 10-15 different acts with each act showcasing a part of Vietnamese mythology, culture or day-to-day lifestyle. The Vietnamese folk music that accompanies each act is actually played by a live ensemble hidden behind the narrator.

There was a particularly adorable act on young Vietnamese who are courting, where the girl puppet has a gaily coloured umbrella and the boy and girl puppet sort of do a bashful dance around each other. Very cute, almost Bollywood. Haha.

Everyone recommends this as one of the cultural must-dos in Hanoi and I guess I am somewhat inclined to agree. Some of the upbeat traditional music is quite enjoyable but the puppet movements will feel very limited and repetitive a few acts into the show. At just under an hour I spotted people leaving and soon after I heard snoring from my left too (no points for guessing who :p). The English narration is also a bit small and difficult to read.

We visited the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology on our last day in Hanoi, and it helped us relate back to this water puppet performance in a few ways, so you might want to consider spending a day at the museum before watching the water puppet show.

Here's a short video I took so that you can imagine the show better:

The puppeteers coming out into the waist-deep water at the end

After the show, you can walk around and check out some of the puppets up close. 

And that's a wrap on Day 1 of our holiday in Hanoi. More adventures coming up!

But before I end this post, I want to show you this video! No Hanoi travelogue is complete without a video of the crazy traffic in Hanoi. 

How do you suppose I crossed that roundabout? Eyes closed, clutching my bag and camera closely, holding Adam's hand tightly... and lots of faith, of course! :D

Next up: A day at the Vietnamese Military History Museum in Ba Dinh!


Quán Chè Ngon Pho Co
No. 8, Cầu Gỗ Street
Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre | Site
(Beside Hoan Kiem Lake)
No. 57b, Đinh Tiên Hoàng Street,
Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Tel: +84 4 3936 4335 / 4334
Fax: +84 4 3824 5117
Email: [email protected]
Showtimes: 2:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, 8pm, 9pm daily, with additional 9am show on Sunday
Ticket Prices: 60,000 or 100,000 VND, camera pass for additional 20,000 VND


Other Hanoi-related posts:


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