Our flight leaving Laos to Vietnam was slightly delayed and we didn’t get in until later in the evening, almost bedtime. We explored a little bit before eating a late supper upstairs at this nice but very narrow little new boutique hotel.

(Mary Jo, Caleb or Connor, if you’re reading before getting to Hanoi on Dec 20 pay attention for some tips! And make sure to see the puppet show!)

Food near the hotel was difficult to find. We could go about 5 blocks one way (South I think it was, but the maps were not oriented to the “standard” North, so it’s difficult to be sure) near West Lake were a bunch, (as well as the nummiest chocolate/pastry shop I had encounered since Cusco in Peru!). Heading East from the hotel a few blocks took us through a major shopping district and various daily markets. A few blcks frther East was a much larger lake, some geat restaurants and the highlight of our trip to Vietnam, the wateer puppet how. I show preface such a grandioise comment with the explanation that we only had tyhe smallest amount of time in Hanoi and in fact all of Vietnam. We flew in late one afterrnoon, got to the hotel in Hanoi in time to have a meal, unpack a bit, walk up and down one road and then pretty much go to bed. With only one free day in the capital city before flying to Hong Kong we weren’t really sure what we would be able to accomplish.

The half day or full day city, countryside, or ocean bay tours all started no later than 8:00 AM! Not our cup of tea at the best of times. Never mind the extremely heavy emphasis towards Ho Chi Min! Good gawd! There was his mauseleum where the body is on display with twice yearly fesh changes of embalming fluid and skin moisturizer. After that was his statue (and park) errected (constructed) to celebrate his life, then there’s another Ho Chi Min monument to celebrate the commie victory in the war, the Ho Chi Min this, and the Ho Chi Min that… The current government is clearly hanging on to him as a strong focal point while letting go of most of his ideals. There was also a visit to “Lennin Park” (and statue) on a tour. We opted for none, and instead I wandered out mid morning and eventually worked my way to the water puppet show box office only able to get tickets for the 9:15 PM show! (There were five shows per day.) The puppets all had elongated horizontal sticks controlling them which were hidden by the water. There was a six piece band adjacent to the water stage as well that were excellent! The puppet show was in 11 stages, or scenes. There were obviously elaborate wires and trigger mechanisms threaded through the sticks and up into the puppets that controlled extra lateral movements, mouth, arms, tails and whatever other apendage individual puppets may have had. It started off with fire breating dragons, complete with lit up sparklers, coming up from under the water and completely captivated us for the rest of the show. (Except for Luke a bit who struggled heavily three-quarters the way through to keep his poor tired little eyes open.) I got some spectacular pictures and video throughout.

After that, we grabbed a taxi home to rest before heading to the airport first thing in the morning. Our hotel was very newly built, and very boutiqeish without being outrageously expensive. This was the last of our second GAP tour, and the booked accomodations were way more extravegant than we would have stayed when booking on our own. This hotel was very narrow, (along with most all buildings we saw in Hanoi) but was 11 stories tall. It only had six to three suites on each floor but was very nice. The restaurant at the top was also amazing, with corespondingly high prices. Gone were the days of ordering a full plate meal (from Thailand & Laos) for $3-$5. Instead we were back to paying $14 for a burger and upwards of $30 for a steak. The view was nice at least!

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