Tag Archives: SE Asia

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.

Family Friendly part of bangkok

Lumphini Park

~B+K~

I added Lumphini Park into our itinerary for the day we visited the Snake Farm (Kyle’s choice) and Wat Hua Lumphong because it was nearby, I wanted to go to a park, and most of all: I wanted to ride the duck pedal boats in the lake! The last time I rode a pedal boat was when I was a child visiting Germany (or maybe Austria) with my family (when we lived in Italy) and it was a lot of fun! I thought this would be a neat activity for us and it would only cost just over a dollar.

Duck boat

After our long day which included the walk to the metro station, the ride there, the above activities, and various other little stops, we were pretty tired but I knew I would be upset if we didn’t go. 

Upon entering, we found that there were many people enjoying the park. Several thousand citizens were going about their days. We noticed that the park is a popular fitness place, with lots of people running around and others taking part in various group exercise/aerobics classes. There were also many families and individuals simply taking in the nature.

Runners in the park

At first we just plopped down in the grass and enjoyed the weather and people-watched for a bit.

Kyle in grass
Warm Bangkok Sun

After we had rested, we decided to go for a stroll.

Looking at lumphini lake

The wildlife was quite active, with many birds, fish, and turtles going about their business. We had read that there were monitor lizards at the park, but we weren’t sure if we’d actually be able to see them – we found a couple early on swimming the lake and it was pretty neat.

Monitor Lizard at Lumphini Park

We proceeded on a bit afterwards, and even came across a collared cat. We don’t know whose cat it was, but most likely it was just someone’s indoor/outdoor cat that found a great place for a nap. We pictured his owners going for a run and seeing him sitting there and say ‘So, this is where you go during the day, Oscar.’

Cat Nap

Finally, we located the swan-boat rental area. The cost is/was 40 baht for a half-hour ($1.13). Initially you must give 80 baht, but as long as you make it back in time, they’ll refund you 40 baht. We hopped into the boat and spent the next half hour puttering about the lake.

Park in BangkokOn Lumphini LakeKyle paddlingIn the boat

We also had a great skyline view in some areas.

Bangkok Skyline

Towards the end of our ride, we stumbled upon what is apparently the resting ground for the monitor lizards, because we found dozens of them dozing in the late afternoon shade along the bank of the lake. We noticed that they were actually pretty much everywhere, climbing onto boats, or where ever else they could find a quiet spot. We tried not to bother them, though because it’s clear they just want to be left to themselves and can become scared quite easily, despite looking like mini dinosaurs.

Monitor Lizard

The sun began to go down as we got out of the boat, so we made our way back to the entrance. Luckily, there is a metro station not far from the entrance which makes it easy to access.

Sunset Reflections

More on the park:

The park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI. Originally meant to be an exhibition center, it was converted into the first public park in the city after World War I. It was named after the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal. Today, a statue of the king greets you at the southeast entrance to the 142 acre park. You will find more than a park, though. Lumpini park is home to a library, an apprentice school, an Elder Citizens club, and more. If you can get to the park early, you’ll find tai chi classes offered. As well, there are various playgrounds for children. Between 10 and 3 you can also cycle for exercise.

If you want to visit, you can get to it via the MRT Subway Silom or Lumphini Station and the BTS Saladaeng. The park is open from 4:30am to 9:00pm. 

All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy nature while you’re in a city of over 12 million people. 

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If you like parks, also check out these other other parks/similar within other large cities:

Parks and Gardens in San Jose

Le Van Tam Park (in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

Bukit Nanas Rainforest (in Kuala Lumpur)

Cat Decor in Bangkok

Caturday: Cat Cafe in Bangkok

~B~

Unlike most cities which tend to only have one, if any, cat cafes, Bangkok actually has a few cat cafes. While I was interested in several of them, Caturday is what worked out best for us due to its location. It was in walking distance from Siam Paragon and we already had other plans in that area (like developing film and the Hello Kitty House).

Caturday Cafe Sign

Boy is this a popular cat cafe! It was very crowded inside but they did not turn us away as they initially did at one of the cat cafes in Korea. The other thing I noticed immediately was the heavy theming. This place was cats, cats, cats!

Cat Decor

There were all kinds of cute cat decorations such as cat toys (not for cats- though there were those too!), paintings of cats, a big cat clock, cat merchandise, and more.

Polaroids with Cats

Obviously there were things for the cats to climb, sit on, and sleep in as well.

At the Cafe

Several cats had on cute outfits or accessories.

Cute Cat outfit
Fluffy KittyCute Kitty

We were seated at a table in the back near this cute Persian cuddled in a little kitty tent.

Me At Caturday
Cat TentFluffy White Cat

We spent a little time perusing the menu before we decided on a drink and cheese fries. I think we were both technically supposed to order drinks but it was okay since we ordered fries too (I’m not sure). We were a little more hungry than thirsty and I have a fondness for cheese fries but there were lots of other meal, snack, and dessert options.

Caturday Menu Options
Silly Caturday Menu
Tea and Cheese Fries

I no longer remember the name of the drink we shared but it was very tasty and sat on a cute Caturday coaster! The fries were also good.

Caturday Cafe SignCute Yummy Drink

For the most point we just enjoyed watching the cats and petting the occasional one that wandered our way. Kitty snack time was crazy and also fun to watch with particular kitties trying to get it all with some others being a little less sure of what to do when presented with it.

Crowded cat cafe

Overall it was a pretty nice time.

Cat Statues

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Pyeongtaek Cat Cafe

Purradise Cat Cafe

Ichi Cat Cafe

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur in Photos

~B~
Some photos are from the surrounding areas such as Petaling Jaya. We were in Kuala Lumpur in January and then again in April/May of this year. The first batch of photos are all film (35mm) and the second batch is made up of photos from our digital camera and phones.

Film:

Our View
Rain in KL
Petronas Towers
Leaf with raindrops
Yellow flower
Kuala Lumpur from Bukit Bintang
In the National Mosque
Outside the Mosque
Wat Chetawan in KL
At the Caves
At the market
Graffiti in Kuala Lumpur
Worn building in KL
Police Building
Feeding Parrots
Peacock at the Bird Park
Pretty Peacock
Bird with Fish
Monkeys
View out the window
Red flower
Petaling Jaya Sunset

Phone and Digital:

Structures
More KL
Around the city
KL Sunset
KL Skyline
Stormy KLBlue Sky
Polaroid of KL towerFountainBatu cavesParkAt the ParkSmall_KL_MallFlowersCandles
WatStray cat

National Museum of Malaysia

~K~

A seemingly hidden gem within Kuala Lumpur is the National Museum of Malaysia (AKA Muzium Negara). For whatever reason, the museum is not as widely touted as other attractions within the city, but it is certainly worth a visit. Compared to the National Museum of Korea, it’s of course smaller, but that doesn’t mean that this museum didn’t still pack a punch.

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We arrived via Uber shortly after noon, and made our way towards the museum through the grounds. But, we needed to use the bathroom first before anything, and we ran into the first case of having to pay for toilet use (rather disappointing considering this is the national museum) and being charged extra for toilet paper. The toilets were also not the cleanest facilities we’ve seen – no horror shows like we’d read to expect luckily though.

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We were also quite hungry, without having eaten anything, we were pretty eager to get some food. So we decided to check out the museum cafeteria. They offered the standard fare we’ve come to expect here in Malaysia: a plate of rice where you pour various meats and curries on top. While this would have been fine for me, Briana couldn’t have any of it because none of it looked vegetarian. So Briana attempted to order french fries from their menu – to which they seemed to have no clue what she was talking about. Pointing to their menu didn’t help, and the people operating the cafeteria seemed to have a rather poor grasp on English. Ultimately, we decided to just walk out hungry because we couldn’t trust the place and get food we wanted. Oddly, we’ve noticed that many restaurants here in Malaysia will have a menu which has nothing to do with what they actually serve. It will seem as if only half of the menu is available, the other half is completely foreign to them, and then there is a secret menu that is not written or in any way advertised which is actually the food they serve – we just don’t get it.

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But, the food really isn’t the important part of this, nor the reason we came. It was for the museum. Tickets for non-locals are 5 RM, which really is a pretty good deal (~$1.25). After getting our tickets, we proceeded inside the building.

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The museum is a pretty simple place, and easy to navigate. It is divided into 4 sections, 2 sections on each of it’s 2 floors. On the first floor you’ll find the Early History and Governments of Malay exhibits, and on the second floor you’ll find the Colonial Era and Modern Day Malaysia exhibits.

The early history is very interesting, giving a brief lesson on the pre-historic aspects of the Malaysian peninsula and archipelago, and how people migrated during the last ice-age. Many ancient artifacts and skeletons were on display here.

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The governments exhibit dove into the more medieval era of Malaysia. Here you could see how the people turned themselves into a powerful kingdom. There were various weapons – most notably kris – and armors as well as textiles and even a throne. 

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At this point in our journey, hunger was beginning to overcome us a little, so Briana broke into the backpack and finished off some mixed nuts. It wasn’t much, but it helped a little as we climbed the stairs to check out the second floor.

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Here in the colonial exhibit we could see how early European explorers had a heavy hand in shaping Malaysia. First the Portuguese, and then the British placed Malaysia under colonial rule. Exploitation of rubber and coconut plantations led to struggles to control Malaysia. And, as we’ve noticed more and more here in Asia, Japan also had a pretty brutal bout of command and conquer in the region.

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The last section covered the modern history of Malaysia from it’s creation shortly after WWII until today. Here we were able to see how the current government came to be, how it functions, as well explanations to certain aspects of the country (such as the flag, multiculturalism, and it’s 13 states).

We also looked at some of the regional clothing over time.

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We could have stayed a bit longer, but hunger was really driving us and causing us to lose focus, so we proceeded on our way. We spent around 2 hours there, but if you really take your time you could extend a visit to 3 hours easily. As well, there is a temporary exhibit in a hall outside of the main building. We did not visit it, although it looked like it was an exhibit of Arabic Ouds which really intrigued me. This area changes throughout the year, so be on the lookout if you come here to see what is may be.

The museum is open every day from 9AM to 6PM, but does close on the first day Eid and Eid al-Adha.

A Traditional Malaysian Breakfast – Bak Kut Teh

~K~

Our AirBNB host decided to take me to a traditional Malaysian restaurant for a traditional (Chinese) Malaysian breakfast. Unfortunately, there was no vegetarian option so Briana didn’t come with us. So only I got to experience it. It is also worth mentioning that this is not a Malay dish, as Malay is an ethnicity here that is Muslim – and this place was not going to be Halal. According to our host, the restaurant we were going to was one of the best in Kuala Lumpur. It was certainly off the beaten path, and we would have never gone to it, let alone found it, without knowing a local. Contrary to much of what we’ve come to know about Malaysia so far, no one here spoke English – or if they did, not much or well.

Bak Kut Teh

It is apparently so popular, that we had to get up early to get breakfast, because otherwise they would run out of food. When we got there just before 9, they had in fact already run out of food, luckily they were nearly done with a new batch, so we waited a little bit to get our food. Malaysian breakfasts, like many Asian breakfasts, look nothing like the typical western meal. They are usually savory, and served with rice and tea – no sweets or cereals.

The meal we had, once it came out, was Bak Kut Teh – meat bone tea. It is a traditional Chinese Malaysian dish popular with the Hoklo and Teochew communities. It is made of fatty pork ribs simmered in a spiced broth of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seed, and garlic. There is no tea actually in the dish itself, but rather a strong oolong Chinese tea is served alongside the dish which apparently cuts the fat of the dish.

To start the meal, we began with washing the tea. Tea (teh in Malay) is served without sugar, and if brewed in the traditional way you must first wash the tea. You do this by brewing a batch, then pouring out the water into a bowl. You’ll generally do this twice, so as to ensure a clean tea free of any contaminates that may have gotten into the loose leaf tea. The tea is poured into small shot-glass sized cups and constantly refilled and re-brewed as it is drunk throughout the meal. The tea will start out near black and very strong, but by the end of the meal the tea will have lightened to a near clear and very clean taste.

When the food arrived, we were served a full plate of rice, along with a small dish of sliced thai chili peppers. Three bowls of meat arrived: two of rib meat and a third of various other cuts of pork. All the bowls were filled with the thick broth as well. A light Malaysian soy sauce (not the dark Japanese type we are familiar with in the states) is poured over the chilis and allowed to marinate. You then pull the meat from the bone, and put it and the broth on the rice. If you wish you can add spice to the dish either by adding the spiced soy sauce, or by directly putting the chili peppers in the dish. I, of course, added the chilis straight to the dish, because I like really spicy chilis, and thai chilis do not disappoint. The dish was very savory and filling, and the broth was very thick and had a slight marrow taste to it. Luckily, we were able to get many refills of broth, though they don’t give out much at a time – it’s very good, and in high demand, so the restaurant apparently was quite stingy with giving out broth. I was told that as the only American they’d had there, they wanted to impress me and make sure I liked the dish, so they kept giving us a little extra soup. Our host was telling me he was using me to get extra broth, to which I was perfectly ok with.

The meal
Finishing up

It is odd, that one of the most popular dishes in Malaysia is Bak Kut Teh, because it is a pork dish. As Malaysia is a Muslim country, the dish is very much not Halal, so cannot be consumed by the ethnic Malay (who by law must be Muslim) or any Muslim converts. However, among the Chinese population and some Indians, it is very popular and a key regional dish.

I asked about a few of the etiquette rules I’ve read about here, and our host had a few things to say in regards to them. One of the first big ones is the “no left hand” rule while eating or handling food – this is apparently very much outdated and practiced only by the most conservative and rural populations. As Kuala Lumpur is pretty progressive (relatively), no one follows this rule and no one is offended if you should use your left hand to handle food or eat. In fact, being left-handed is now something that can exist here without problems (it used to be punishable). The other big etiquette rule I had run across was not pointing your foot towards people. Again, this is a very outdated custom that is only followed by the most conservative and older populations. So you can feel free to cross your legs in public without fearing reprisal. It still isn’t advisable to deliberately show the bottom of your foot to someone as it is still an insult; but casually crossing your legs while sitting or showing the bottoms of your feet while stretching, exercising, or relaxing isn’t a problem.

So if you’re looking for a delicious, and traditional, start to you day in Malaysia – try Bak Kut Teh.