Hanoi to Sapa

Train ride to Sapa

June 20, 2005

Today we had to check out of our guest house in Hanoi by noon. As we checked out the guy decided to slap on a 10% tax on our bill. We knew this tax was going directly in his pocket, but we didn’t complain since we needed him to watch our bags all day. Our train to Sapa tonight didn’t leave until 10:00 pm and we didn’t want to carry our bags around all day.

We spent most of the day on the internet updating the website and walking around the town some more. At 6:00 pm we went to see a water puppet show. I thought this would just be something to do to waste time while waiting for our train, but I walked away very entertained and it only cost 30,000 dong ($1.90) for the both of us to get in. Here is a short description written by someone else about the puppet show.

    Puppetry is common throughout the world, but puppetry theatre of Vietnam on water is unique. The art of water puppetry appeared in the Ly dynasty (1010-1225). Vestiges of evidence have been found in several places such as the pavilion on water by the Long Tri lake in the Thay Pagoda, Ha Tay province.

    Water puppetry was developed in lake and pond-rich areas in the Red River Delta. The surface of water serves as the stage while spectators sit at the edge of water. The puppeteers both male and female stand waist-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets making them move about and even dance on the surface of the water. The water serves not only to hide the puppeteers and strings of the puppets but also to create a trembling stage full of reflection, while providing natural amplification for singing puppeteers accompanied by percussion music and fire crackers.

    In the old days, puppeteers grouped together into guilds. Nowadays, they are brought together in the National Water Puppetry Theatre and various provincial and even private troupes.

    Every puppet is a piece of real folk sculpture. It is made of wood, painted with water-proof lacquer. The prominent character is buffoon Teu with a plump body and a humorous smile. When the curtain is raised, the merry, arch Teu enters onto the stage and introduces the play.

    A considerable repertoire of traditional water puppet plays still get a big hand from the audience. They include the Teu Dance, Buffalo Fighting, Duck Tender Chasing Fox and Chess Playing.

After the puppet show we decided to head to the train station early and just read for a while. While in the train station we met a couple guys who were also going to Sapa. We continued to chat away swapping stories and of course telling them about our hellish border crossing. Next thing we know the gates open and some local guy starts directing the four of us to our sleeper cabin on the train. He takes the four of us all to the same cabin. We thought he assumed we were together, but we looked at our tickets and we just happened to be booked in the same sleeper cabin. So, we continued our conversation on the train for an hour or so before going to sleep.

October 2nd, 2006: I found a version of the show here
Water Puppet Show (www.youtube.com)

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