Tag Archives: hanoi

Entrance to Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (Hanoi)

~B~

Soon after learning about this traditional art special to Vietnam- I put it on my must-do list for the country. We knew we would have multiple opportunities to catch a water puppet show so we put it off in Ho Ch Minh while we did other activities which could only be found there such as the War Remnants Museum, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and so on. Our first glimpse of a water puppet theater stage occurred there, though, in the Museum of Vietnamese History. There was a room with a stage and seating off to the side of one of the museum rooms where you could catch shows at certain times. This show, while on a smaller “stage” than the show we ended up seeing, is allegedly quite good! We might have gone except that it was starting as we arrived so we didn’t have much time to debate the extra little cost (we were on quite a budget at that time). There were other options in Ho Chi Minh as well, but ultimately we ended up going to the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theater after making it to Hanoi.

Water Puppet Theater Entrance

One special thing about seeing the show there is that water puppetry actually originated in north Vietnam (specifically in the Red Delta River area in the north) back in the 11th century. Apparently this was a form of entertainment used by villagers when their rice fields were flooded. They were sometimes used to celebrate the end of the season (and possibly on other special occasions). In the old days, they would build pagodas in the rice fields which could hide the puppeteers who would stand in the (waist to chest deep) water controlling the puppets. The water hid the puppet controls and served as a stage. Back then, they would also often be dealing with cold water which could have leeches and water-borne diseases in order to put on these shows.

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater was established in 1969 as a way to preserve tradition and increase tourism. The puppets they use are carved from wood and are controlled with bamboo rods and string. Scenes and skits performed in the show address aspects of daily life for rural farmers like fishing and farming, as well as performances relating to folklore, festivals, and more. Water puppet performers from this theater have toured 40 countries to put on shows as well. If you’d like to get a glimpse of what to expect, you can check out some videos on youtube.

Little Figures

Anyway, this was one of the first things we did our first time in Hanoi. Our last 10 days or so in HCM was spent away from District 1 (location of a lot of the touristy stuff) and was during the period of Tet so we had plenty of time to get work done and were able to go out and sight-see pretty immediately once we got to Hanoi. On our first day out we walked quite a bit but I believe it was the next day we chose to walk to the theater. It’s located near Hoan Kiem Lake and lots of other neat activities in the Old Quarter, but was quite a long walk from our Airbnb at the time.

Road near our Airbnb

When we got to the theater, they were sold out! Be aware that this could happen to you due to its popularity.

Crowded Theater

We did not find tickets available online at the time and it seems it may be fairly common for them to sell out early for the day and sometimes even the next day or two. So- we bought tickets for the next day, got some coffee (for Kyle) and tea (for me) and then wandered around the area proceeding to get quite lost, making our journey back hours longer.

Crowded Hanoi

The next day we were so exhausted we decided to just get a taxi down to the theater for our show time. The funny thing is that all of this could have been avoided because after our 10 days on Cat Ba we ended up staying at a place just around the corner from the theater! That’s how things go I guess! Fortunately, like everything else, transportation is pretty cheap there and our taxi ride only cost us about $2 and we walked the way back (pretty sure we got lost again).

Overall, we really enjoyed the show. I noticed from online reviews that it’s not everyone’s thing- but it was our’s! We weren’t entirely sure what to expect but here are some of the things we liked: 1. It was educational. I felt like I learned a little bit about the history of the area and even a little bit about current life for rural villagers in Vietnam. There were scenes of fishing, festival events, etc. 2. It was entertaining. The show even made me laugh out loud a couple times. 3. It was slightly interactive (like smoke for certain parts and dragons spraying out water- though not really at you per se). 4. The music. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra including a Dan bau, bamboo flutes, drums, and more plays as an accompaniment/accent to the show. There is also some Cheo (a type of opera) singing.

People playing instruments

The only thing that sort of got in the way for us was that we couldn’t understand what the puppets were saying (their “voice actors” spoke in Vietnamese). We didn’t mind because we were in Vietnam, but do feel we might have missed a few things or could have learned more if it was in English or we knew Vietnamese. Still, with many parts the music, tone, and actions of the puppets helped communicate things to us.

Here is the info:
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang – Hanoi – Vietnam
Cost: 100k dong (~$5)
Times: I see varying things online so I would just check in person. Show times are mostly in the afternoon/evening, I believe, though.
Website: www.thanglongwaterpuppet.org
Other info: Shows last for one hour.

Combine it with: Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple, Hoa La Prison (the “Hanoi Hilton”), the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Vietnamese history, the Vietnamese women’s museum, the Hanoi Opera House, and more!

In front of HK Lake

And if you can’t make it here there are a few other opportunities (such as these) across Vietnam to see water puppet shows of varying sizes.

Vietnam Vegetarian Restaurant

Loving Hut(s) in Hanoi (Vegan Food)

~B~

I was happy to find that Hanoi is a place where it’s pretty easy to be a vegetarian (or even vegan- relatively). I could almost always find something vegetarian to eat at a given restaurant and there were a number of exclusively vegetarian/vegan restaurants as well. One, or rather, at least two, of these was Loving Hut.

Outside The Big Loving Hut

While I didn’t know about Loving Hut for a long time (but have been a vegetarian for a long time), if you are vegan or vegetarian and have lived in a major city, you probably know about it as it’s one of the few vegan chains out there. I first found out about it when I was in college. I would regularly feed the homeless with a group (though a couple times it was just me) starting my freshman year and the local Loving Hut would regularly donate food for the feedings. Thus it would usually be a stop on the way to downtown. While waiting, I would occasionally watch their (what I thought was) strange television programming. I thought it was just some Asian religion which they used as the basis for their beliefs. This, in fact, was true. I have since discovered that the founder of Loving Hut, Ching Hai, developed her own sort of spiritual method (the ‘Quan Yin method’) and has her own tv channel which plays in many Loving Huts. Anyway, despite the television programming featuring the founder, I’m not sure I even realized that it wasn’t just a local restaurant until several years later when I saw one in another state. Since traveling, we have found out that Loving Huts are all over the world (there are something like 138 locations) and the founder, Ching Hai is actually from Vietnam.

We went to two locations in Hanoi. The first place we planned into our itinerary on one of our first outings in Hanoi. We did not yet realize how veg-friendly the city was and wanted to ensure that I would not go hungry as we were planning to do a lot of walking that day. The second we just stumbled upon.

Loving Hut 1: 192 Quán Thánh, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Inside The Little Loving Hut

On our first stay in Hanoi we were staying a bit farther up/away from many of the more touristy activities. One day early on we were walking down this direction to see Chùa Trấn Quốc and to buy tickets to the Water Puppet Theater. We almost missed the restaurant as it was a little off to the side. Not surprisingly, the relatively small (it maybe had 6-9 small tables) restaurant primarily contained other westerners. Vietnamese will sometimes be vegetarian for religious reasons but it did not seem to be very common.

Waiting On Food In The Little Loving Hut

A board to the right showed various famous vegan people and the extensive menu contained many dishes with fake meat ranging from chicken and beef to tuna and shrimp. There were vegan versions of many local Vietnamese dishes. I personally tend to not be much of a fan of the fake meats seeing as I have absolutely no taste or interest for real meat but there were plenty of other options too. I don’t remember the name of the dishes  but I think we both ordered normal vegan-ified Vietnamese dishes and they were good. Our meals together cost 65,000VND (~$2.91).

Little Loving Hut Meal
Delicious Loving Hut Meal

Loving Hut 2: Loving Hut, 33 Bà Triệu, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Outside The Big Loving Hut

Not only was this the nicest Loving Hut I’ve ever been in, but it was probably the nicest restaurant in which Kyle and I have dined, ever! After finishing up at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, we were hungry. All we had to do was walk down the street, though and we saw a Loving Hut sign. Yay! 

As we walked towards it, we could not discern the location of the restaurant, though. It looked like there was just a Loving Hut grocery store, something which I didn’t even realize existed. We were a little disappointed as we wanted to eat right then but then I saw another sign which said restaurant. I asked a guard who was standing outside and he said “Yes, right this way,” or something along those lines and escorted us into an elevator. ‘Uh-oh!’, we thought, both in the elevator and as we stepped out. I’m pretty sure the restaurant had only been open a couple months (if even) when we visited (March 2016). The waiters were wearing tuxedos and the decor was elegant. I would have taken more pictures (which don’t really do it justice) but we were pretty much being watched the whole time so I tried to be discreet. We were worried we might not be able to afford anything but we couldn’t really turn around now as there was a guard/escort at the elevator and it would have been rather embarrassing.

Dining Room Of The Big Loving Hut
Table Settings

They presented us with the menu and we were reminded that, while this was a very nice restaurant, we were still in Vietnam. Prices for many items were a little high for our very tight budget at the time, but it was all extremely reasonable (even cheap) considering the great quality of the place, service, and food. We ordered a single green tea to share in case water was not complementary (as we have found is the case in most restaurants in Asia). I think we may have received water, though. Because we were quite hungry, we also ordered an appetizer to share. We both opted for meals which were at the lower price-end of their dishes, with me getting the fried eggplant and Kyle ordering bun chau him chay.

Vietnamese Green TeaFried Spring Roll
Fine Dining Nem Chay
Fried Aubergine

Each time the waiter brought a dish, another waiter would stand there along side, lifting up the special platter covering thing (or that’s how I remember it) basically and serving us. I think they might have even had on gloves. I remember being just a little uncomfortable from feeling under-dressed (though they did not treat us in this manner) and because I did not know any further etiquette I might ought to have been practicing there but the food was well-presented and delicious.

Waiting For Food At Loving Hut

Our meal at this fancy vegan restaurant which included one appetizer, one drink, and two meals came out to 205,000VND (~$9.19) We were given a discount due to International Women’s Day (though it was not technically on the day- but that was great!) which reduced the price to 185,000VND and we ended up paying 200,000VND. Tipping is not typical in Vietnam but with the discount and quality, we had to do so. I think we thought about giving more but did not have appropriate bills to do so. Plus, we were still on a budget. We had decided to call this a sort of anniversary meal even though it was a little early.

They provided us with a coupon for a future visit and we did think about returning but did not have a ton of time left in the city and it was not super close to us so we did not end up making it back. I would still highly recommend the place, though and if you don’t go to the cafe at the Vietnamese Women’s museum, it’s a good option for a place to get food afterwards.  

From what I can tell online, there may be at least one more Loving Hut in Hanoi as well (looks like: Loving Hut Nguon Coi Restaurant, 3 Ngách 10, Ngõ 121, Phố Chùa Láng, Quận Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam) but I cannot verify anything about it as we did not visit this location.

  • If you are looking for more delicious vegan/vegetarian food in Hanoi, also check out: Bo de Quan
  • For good vegan/vegetarian food on Cat Ba island (just a few hours from Hanoi), check out: Buddha Belly
  • And finally, for a nice vegetarian restaurant in Ho Chi Minh, take a look at: Hum Vegetarian
Vietnam Museum

Vietnamese Women’s Museum

~B~

According to a Vietnam tourism site, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum is “one of Hanoi’s most overlooked museums and is also one of its best.” I have to agree. The museum was originally established in 1987, but has undergone a number of renovations since that time and had existed in its current state since 2010. It’s run by the Vietnamese Women’s Union and its purpose is to provide knowledge on the history and culture of Vietnamese women, including their role in the country’s past, present, and future. The union as a whole also seeks to promote gender equality.

When you arrive, there is a large open courtyard. To the left is the ticketing office, further up to the left is a special temporary display area/large room for the museum, and to the right is motorbike parking and a cafe/restaurant. Straight ahead is the main part of the museum. Pictured below: view of courtyard from somewhere inside the museum.

Vietnamese Women's Museum Courtyard

During the time we visited (March 2016), the first building on the left focused on women’s role in disaster relief and was pretty interesting! I think the exhibit may have been temporary but I’m glad we got to see it. The area provides information on recent natural disasters in Vietnam and how disasters affect men and women differently.

Disaster info room

One board told us that (according to a study by the London School of Economics), as a result of inequality, women and children are 14 times more likely to be injured or killed during a disaster. It provided examples such as the 2010 Pakistan floods (seventy percent of the 18 million affected were women and children). The study found that disasters have greater long-term impact on the health, learning, and livelihood of women. In a recent cyclone in Myanmar, over half of those killed were women and almost all women lost their primary income source. The large room also provided examples of how they manage with what they have, such as making lamps out of beverage cans.

Tools or something

Though I don’t remember hearing about them on the news, there were two Typhoons in 2013 which were pretty devastating for the people of Central Vietnam. Additionally, in January of this year (2016), Northern Vietnam experienced a record breaking cold-wave which killed thousands of livestock and crops. It also impacted forest there. Obviously climate change is mentioned as a likely culprit.

The frost 2016 VN

As of late, there has been funded training for women to learn to deal with such disasters. Many Vietnamese don’t know how to swim and the training provides/provided them assistance in learning how to swim, administer first aid, and more. It left many of the women feeling more confident and the education appears to have been very helpful. One woman was quoted as having told others in a certain area to change their crops from rice to lotus which more than quadrupled their profits.

At the time we visited (March 2016) they had another interesting temporary exhibition as well: a Comic and Cartoon contest.

Vietnamese WOmen's Museum Temporary Exhibit

This one was just outside of the main museum building. The theme was “Gender Equality: Picture it!” and the contest was organized jointly by Belgium and the UN Women Viet Nam and was originally launched November 25 2015 (International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women) with the 40 winners displayed March 1-10, 2016. It was a really neat display and while I would like to post all/most of the comics, I will just limit it to a few.

Poster Exhibit
More Equality Posters

The sign which provided the information on the contest also contained some facts about gender (in)equality in Vietnam. Over half of ever-married Vietnamese women experience some form of violence from their partner in their life, but only one percent of these cases lead to a conviction. Nearly ninety percent of women have experienced public harassment in public places. Of course, unfortunately, these numbers are not terribly far off from the rest of the world. In fact, according to this article, 100 percent of women in France say they are harassed using public transportation alone. You can find more on street harassment statistics here, and, if you would like to compare, you can also check out the 2010 CDC report on Intimate Partner Violence in the US which reports on violence experienced by both men and women.

Gender Poster
Gender equality posters

The poster also mentioned that a significant sex ratio imbalance in Vietnam (favoring males) has presented itself in recent years which is problematic and is likely responsible for more human trafficking and forced marriages. One in ten girls in Vietnam experiences child marriage. There has also been a recent decline in the political representation of women in Vietnam. One problem in Vietnam is the very deep-seated corruption at every level. We have some issues in the US with corruption, but it is not quite like Vietnam. There is also a growing problem with alcoholism in Vietnam which tends to be associated with abuse. You can see this featured in some of the displays.

Gender Equality Poster

Now to the main building! The main building of the museum is five stories tall and needless to say, we ended up spending quite a bit more time there than we originally anticipated. Honestly, we could have spent even more time examining the exhibits better if not for us getting so tired and hungry and my toe hurting.

There are three primary themes/galleries: Women in History, Women in Family, and Women’s Fashion. I wasn’t really aware of this going in and didn’t think that all of the exhibits were tied strongly to one of these categories, but we also saw a couple of other exhibits which may have been temporary as well. The categories are also divided further (such as by time period). All exhibits provide text in Vietnamese, French, and English. Through exploring the museum, we learned about women in Vietnam and their roles over time. We learned about family life in Vietnam, including interesting aspects of marriage, childbirth, surnames, customs and traditions, and more over time and among different ethnic groups.

For example, the Viet, Yao, Bru-Van Keiru, Ma, Hoa, and a few other populations are patrilineal meaning men are more important and privileged. There are also some matrilineal societies, though, including the Ede, Jarai, Churu, and Raglai, among others. Among these groups the wife’s name is taken, girls inherit wealth (with the youngest girl being the “most privileged”), and the oldest woman in a family has a “decisive role in family affairs.” Girls are preferred as children.

In the past, families were sometimes polygamous, but now monogamy is the norm. One board on marriage (hon nhan) reads: “Wife and husband are as inseparable as a pair of chopsticks.” Marriage used to be arranged, but today people have more freedom in choosing a partner. When it comes time for marriage, there are a number of rituals which sometime includes consulting fortune tellers in order to determine the best days for their engagement and wedding rituals. The Viets look for the “most auspicious timing” for a wedding date. The couple get married in the groom’s house and then live there afterwards. Among one ethnic group (the Sinhmun) the couples would have a first ceremony and then stay with the bride’s family and have a second ceremony eight or nine years later over at the groom’s family (pretty different)! Among the Taoi, people were required to file their top 6 teeth prior to getting married. We also learned about gift-giving and other customs. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to read about if you go there.

In addition to their familial roles, we learned about women’s role in work and war. We had learned some about the significant role of Vietnamese women in war efforts from our visits to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum (still need to write about this one) and the Hanoi Hilton/Hoa Lo Prison but learned a little more here as well.

War Posters

In one area we found a tool the women used to grind rice and flour. We struggled with it a bit. These two older American men who we think may have been veterans (also possibly a couple) encouraged me when I was struggling with it. They asked where we were from and seemed disappointed when we said Florida. They were from the northeast. We wished we had engaged them more but were just a bit shocked/excited to find someone else from the US (as almost everyone else we had heard/encountered at this point seemed to be French with a few Brits, Australians, and other Europeans mixed in).

Tool

The fashion section was quite large (an entire floor). We saw jewelry and clothing, both special and regular wear, from different ethnic groups and different time periods. We enjoyed looking at all of it and learning the purpose of the clothing.

Vietnamese dress
Vietnamese Clothing
Special VN clothingPink dress

The top floor was closed when we visited and I’m not sure what was inside (if anything), but other exhibits we saw were on topics such as music and religion.

Vietnamese Religion

One area displayed information on mother goddess worship (the oldest religion in Vietnam). One board read: “In the mother Goddess worship, women are the centre of the universe, looking after all four regions: heaven, earth, water and mountains and forests. Unlike other religious beliefs, worshippers find their expected desires and happiness right here in their current life. By following the Mother Goddess, their spiritual needs are satisfied.”

VN religion

There were a few areas throughout which also contained films/videos to watch (worth watching).

In the gift shop we bought one of our first souvenirs while traveling (a cat picture)! They also have old propaganda posters and things of that nature if you’re interested. We didn’t try out the cafe because I didn’t see any vegetarian food but as we were starving from staying much longer than we anticipated, we did look for a place to eat after we were done and what do you know, we found a Loving hut (a vegan restaurant with locations worldwide) right across the street from the museum. Surprisingly, it was a new and an interesting experience which should be its own post, though (or at least combined with the other Loving Hut we visited in Hanoi).

Visit and you will learn not only about the women of Vietnam, but about Vietnamese culture and history as a whole.

Here’s the info:

Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam (see: http://baotangphunu.org.vn/Vi-tri-bao-tang/)
Hours: 8am-5pm Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Admission: 30,000 VND (~$1.34)