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Posts Tagged ‘Lonely Planet’

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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