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Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Freeman’

Splash Zone: Water Puppets in Vietnam

Posted May 31st, 2012

Ellen Freeman is a freelance writer and former Festival Blog intern who is based in Oregon.

Here come the puppets. Photo by kkinjo.

On my list of must-sees for the week I spent in Vietnam last month (or, as the itinerary turned out, must-eats), temples, conical hats, and sidewalk noodle stands figured high. The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre did not. Puppets? I mistakenly thought. That’s kid stuff.

But after dark in Hanoi, Vietnam’s historic capital, my travel buddy and I found ourselves looking for something to do. We’d been playing rummy and drinking bia hoi, or glasses of fresh draft beer that local watering holes serve for pennies (literally, it’s about 20 cents a glass). But the amount of tourists that were as thrifty as they were thirsty meant that the kegs had run out almost as soon as they’d been tapped. (This happens every night. I don’t know why they don’t just make more beer.) With no desire to head back to our stifling fourth-floor walk-up, we thumbed through the Lonely Planet looking for something exciting to do.

Ranked #1 in the Hanoi entertainment section was the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, a show that the writers of our guidebook did not advise you to leave Vietnam without seeing. If we didn’t get lost in the Old Quarter trying to find the theater, we could still make it to the last show.

According to our map, the theater was right on Hoan Kiem, a small lake filled with giant turtles in the heart of Hanoi. Of course! I thought. It’s water puppetry so it must be performed in the lake. Puppets in a lake sounded slightly more appealing than plain old puppets, so we set off for the theater. Ignoring the many offers of rickshaw rides—getting there on time didn’t seem worth the public humiliation of being a tourist paraded on a rickshaw and then paying exorbitantly for the experience—we made our way on foot.

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One Night In Bangkok: Bed Supperclub And Pina Bausch

Posted May 15th, 2012

Ellen Freeman is a freelance writer and former Festival Blog intern who is based in Oregon.

Random photo in Bangkok that Ellen took, has only tangential relation to the story in that the statue is in repose.

After backpacking on a shoestring through Morocco, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, and Thailand, I had one night in Bangkok—and, like the song says, I was ready to make the world my oyster. I’d spent the last three months haggling self-righteously over fractions of a cent for the price of everything, shacking up with strangers (don’t worry, Mom, I’m talking about hostel dormitories) and trying not to think about what went into some of the dirt-cheap street food I slurped, all to make such an ambitious trip possible on my part-time yoga teacher/freelance writer’s salary. In the morning I would struggle to zip my bag and begin the 24+ hour journey back to Portland, Oegon, where I live with my parents. So I wanted to live it up for my last night as a world traveler. According to my Bangkok host Krishnan, a friend from college who moved there to teach English, there was only one place worthy of such an occasion—Bed Supperclub.

He wouldn’t go into details, but insisted that it would be an experience like no other on my trip. The Lonely Planet’s description was equally vague, something along the lines of “Bed Supperclub is like breakfast in bed, but without the breakfast or the beds.” When we got off the subway in Nana, one of Bangkok’s notorious sex districts known for it’s “entertainment plaza” of soapy massage parlors and ladyboy bars, I made Krishnan promise we weren’t going to a “ping pong pussy show.” (If you don’t know what that is . . . think about it.) But at the end of the block, past invitations from hustlers to just such a show, we came to Bed Supperclub, which was no naughty bar.

Inside the Bed Supperclub.

In fact, the place couldn’t have been more incongruous with its surroundings. The building was a large metal tube on stilts, shaped something like a bisected super-jet. The front was made entirely out of frosted glass windows, behind which pink and purple lights pulsated. A thumping beat grew louder as we walked up the ramp to the entrance, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was boarding a starship to a planet populated by a race of Euro-aliens. We were greeted by a pair of glamorous hosts who made sure that we weren’t defacing the image of the establishment by wearing flip-flops or t-shirts, and escorted behind a black curtain.

On the other side of the curtain was an ovular, all-white, two-level chamber, illuminated with icy blue lights and backlit with a pink glow. Each side of the room was lined with a long white daybeds, with the bar at one end and a DJ, clad in enormous headphones, bobbing his head at the other end. Other diners, undoubtedly all foreign, reclined on the couches sipping Technicolor cocktails and nibbling at plates of tiny foods. It was as if I had traveled from the streets of Bangkok to the set of Zoolander.

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