Deb and Finnie Tour Vietnam

Vietnam Tour

February 14, 2011.  Finnie’s valentine present to me was to tour Vietnam for two weeks prior to our return to Weihai, China, so this meant lugging more suitcases of our stuff that we would have needed for a 2 week trip.  Our luggage held important things like coffee, warm underwear, two computers, medicines, and new warm clothes. We left the United States on a 13 hour direct flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Tokyo.  After a 3 hour layover, we flew another 6 hours to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  We were met at the airport on February 15th by our guide, Sang,  who took us to the Oscar Hotel and made sure we were checked in properly.   We gratefully slept in our nice and comfortable room. 

February 16: We awoke the next morning, packed a few things in an overnight bag, stored our several suitcases with the hotel concierge, and  enjoyed a great western/Vietnamese breakfast buffet in the hotel’s restaurant which overlooked downtown Ho Chi Minh City. 

Figure 1 A view of the central area of Ho Chi Minh City from our hotel

Our guide picked us up and while he explained what we were seeing, our driver took us into the Mekong River delta to the pier at Vinh Long .  Of course we made a rest stop for coffee on the way.

Figure 2 Vietnamese coffee at a rest stop.  Good and Strong!

By the way, in order to remember what we saw and when, I have referred to our tour itinerary.  I doubt seriously that we would have remembered all the names of all the places, towns, and things we visited without that itinerary.  In some places I have quoted the itinerary, marked with an “*” .  We booked our tour through a Vietnamese tour  agency, HaiVenu.  We were pleased with the arrangements made by this company.

We arrived  in time to board the ‘Mekong Eyes’ for a river cruise of the Delta’s canals and tributaries.

Figure 3.  Mekong Eyes with Dragon Eyes moored beside her

The first thing we did after checking into our cabin, was to eat a beautifully prepared and delicious lunch.  The fruits, vegetables, and seafood were so fresh and delicious!   

Figure 4.  Spring Rolls

Figure 5.  Lunch on Mekong Eyes.  2nd courses — pork, rice, and salad

Our boat cruised along the Tien Giang River and into Cho Lach canal where we were passed by many sand and rice barges. 

Figure 6. Rice Boat

We stopped at a family business that makes food products out of rice – we watched as puffed rice cakes were made (very similar to an American snack called Rice Crispy treats) and tasted the rice wine produced that is bottled with a poisonous snake inside the bottle (this is considered an exquisite alcoholic drink).

Figure 7Making Puffed rice treats.  Step 1:  add river sand to big wok

Figure 8.  Making Puffed Rice Treat:  heat fast and stir like crazy.

Figure 9.  Making Puffed Rice Treat:  Presto.  Rice pops and puffs

Figure 10.  Making Puffed Rice Treat:  pour puffed rice into a bowl

Figure 11. Making Puffed Rice Treat:  stir in syrup, and press into a rectangular frame, then cut into squares

Figure 11a.  Making Rice Wine:  Ferment and then distill and bottle

Figure 12.  Making Rice paper.  Ladle rice fiber slurry onto a strainer and steam

Figure 13.  Then peel off and dry

We drifted along the river watching local people at their daily work, such as drying exotic fruits and building ships.   And we saw many lumber yards filled with uncut teak lumber and mangrove trunks, both woods are used for building because both are very strong and water and insect resistant.

Figure 14.  Logs for sale

Later, on the Mang Thit River, at the small town of Cai Nhum, we disembarked again for a  visit  to a brick factory and then walked along a narrow road where we could observe people tending their gardens and visiting neighbors .   At the brick factory we were fascinated by the number of bricks being made, all baked in large bee-hive shaped kilns heated with rice straw.  Finnie was happily greeted again as a Happy Buddha by one of the workers.

Figure 15.  Huge brick kiln.  One of hundreds right along the river.  Fired by Rice hulls

Figure 16.  Stacking the cooled bricks

Figure 17.  Happy brick maker rubbing Happy Buddha belly.

Returning to the boat we set off for Tra On, where the boat  anchored for the night. We  enjoyed the  sunset while we visited with our fellow travellers before dinner.

Figure 18.  Roland and Finnie solving world problems on deck at dusk.

The boat gently rocked us to sleep at bedtime.

February 17.   The boat motors were turned on at 6AM, which acted as an alarm clock.  We dressed and enjoyed an early morning breakfast as we watched the sunrise.

Figure 19.  Sunrise on the Mekong

Figure 20.  Who said Finnie didn’t have a healthy breakfast?

After breakfast we boarded a traditional sampan, “a small boat iconic to the Delta”*.  The  boat cruised through a palm-shaded creek to see the local houses, green orchards and ship building yards. We  observed the waterborne commerce at Cai Rang floating market, considered one of the best on the Delta.   Hundreds of small boats were parked along the river edge as owners sold their goods from their boats. We enjoyed freshly cut pineapples as a mid-morning snack.

Figure 21.  Loads of produce everywhere

Figure 22.  Soup Lady to the rescue at lunch time

Figure 23.  Ah!  Cool, refreshing fruit drinks for sale!

Figure 24.  Soup lady again, making her rounds through all the boats

Figure 25.   Fresh, sweet pineapple right on the pineapple barge.

We arrived in Ninh Kieu Pier where we left our cruise boat to return to Ho Chi Minh City.

After a late afternoon rest, we enjoyed a lovely dinner with the Ho Chi Minh office manager of the travel agency with whom we booked our trip.

 

February 18 We  had breakfast in our hotel, and then our guide and driver took us to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels, “a Byzantine maze of underground passages, chambers, rooms and booby traps used by both the Vietminh and the Viet Cong to suddenly materialise as if from nowhere, launch a lightning ambush, and vanish equally rapidly.”*

 

Figure 26.  People walking on cover to a tunnel

Figure 27.  Finnie in tunnel.  (I think you are supposed to crouch down and walk through.  Also, you are supposed to be able to pass people in the tunnel.  Guess what two of these things I couldn’t do.  Also it got pretty warm, pretty fast in there.

Figure 28.  A group posing by a wrecked tank.

Figure 29.  A closed trap door

Figure 30.  The trap door open.

 

Figure 31.  Other kinds of traps

Figure 32.  Yet another kind of trap

Figure 33.  A First-aid station

We returned to Ho Chi Minh City, and we had lunch at in a beautiful outdoor garden restaurant  that was originally a French villa in mid-city.  We relaxed at our table beside a large pool.

Figure 34.  Lunch at an old French Villa

Figure 35.  Spring rolls on a pineapple lantern

Figure 36.  After lunch relaxation

Figure 37.  Vintage Citroen at the restaurant entry

After lunch we visited the Reunification Hall – an early colonial masterpiece constructed in 1960 to accommodate the Governor –general of Indochina. 

Figure 38. Reunification Hall (Presidential Palace)

Then we visited the Museum of War Remnants which provided a “partial,  riveting  perspective of the ‘American War’ “*.  Although we remember seeing many of the images displayed in this museum on the nightly news broadcasts when they happened over a period of years, the museum provided a concentrated, poignant  reminder of  hundreds of tragic moments and events of the war, which the passage of time has not made easier to take in.

 

Figure 39.  We don’t remember hearing about this event

  We spent one more night in the Oscar hotel. 

 February 19:   

After one last Oscar Hotel breakfast, we were taken to the airport to fly to Hue.  We  arrived in Phu Bai airport in Hue and were met by our new guide, Ving.  He helped us check into our Hue hotel, Orchid Hotel. 

Figure 40.  Hue.  View from our hotel (Orchid) of Tropical Garden Restaurant across the street

We enjoyed a great lunch in the garden restaurant across the street.   The food in Hue is very good – a cross between Asian and French cuisine made with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Our favourite dish was Hue pancakes.  

Figure 41.  Tropical Garden Restaurant

Figure 42.  A pancake at the Tropical Garden Restaurant

Figure 43.  Deb enjoying coffee at the Tropical Garden

After lunch we were astonished by Vietnam’s Forbidden City, called  the Imperial Citadel of Hue, perhaps largely due to the fact that neither of us knew that there was one.  Hue is the ancient capital of Vietnam.   The war destroyed much of the palace but with UNESCO funds it is painstakingly being reconstructed.  The reconstructed portions give one an idea of the beauty of the palace during the imperial period.  We learned an enormous amount of information at this palace.  For example, we learned that before the French colonization in the mid-19th century, the written Vietnamese language used Chinese characters.  Many of the old buildings were embellished with Chinese calligraphy and we recognized and knew the meaning of a few characters!  Prior to the French colonization, Vietnam had been embroiled in China’s feudal expansionism for over 1000 years, which imparted many Chinese cultural aspects in Vietnam.  The French introduced a Romanized written version of the Vietnamese language, which is now used exclusively in Vietnam.  During the 1940’s, Japan expelled the French in order to occupy the country and divided the country into the North and South.  After World War II, the French attempted to regain control, but were unsuccessful.  The United States sided with the South for control; while China and the Soviet Union sided with the North.  We were struck again with the impact that the Chinese, French, Japanese and American cultures have had on Vietnam and its people.

Figure 44.  Entrance to the Imperial City

Figure 45. Within the Imperial City

Figure 46.  Within the Imperial City  — showing use of broken ceramics for decoration

Figure 47. Within the Imperial City.  We didn’t learn the significance of this, but the kids were way cute!

Figure 48.  Within the Imperial City.   Each kettle commemorates an Emperor at Emperor Worship pavilion

Figure 49.  Within the Imperial City close up shot of a kettle.  Note bullet strike marks from the war

Figure 50. Within the Imperial City – a covered walk

Figure 51. Within the Imperial City – covered walk ceiling

Figure 52.  Within the Imperial City.  An unrestored gate showing effects of war

Figure 53. Within the Imperial City.  3-D artwork, using natural materials for texture

Figure 54.  Within the Imperial City.  Emperor Worship Pavilion

Despite the influence of the other nations on Vietnam, the Vietnamese see themselves as  resourceful, resilient, and creative.  We evidenced all those attributes ourselves.  There is a story that Ving, our guide, told us (in an explanation of the amazing traffic flow that continually amazed us) that was insightful in a somewhat deeper sense. He said, “Vietnamese people are like water flowing over rocks in a stream.  The water flows around rocks and other obstacles looking for any opportunity to flow toward the end of the river.  Vietnamese know that there are opportunities everywhere to meet one’s goal. But, just like water, if we are confronted by too much pressure, collectively we become a very powerful force. This philosophy is even true in driving habits.  There are motorcycles everywhere, with cars and trucks filling in the spaces between the motorcycles.  All vehicles flow together looking for any empty square centimeter, it seemed,  in order to move toward the end of the street – like water does in a rocky stream.  It seems like controlled chaos to our western eyes, but very rarely did we see an accident and never any hostility!

We enjoyed another evening in our Orchid Hotel room with the superb support from the hotel staff – right down to the fresh fruit tray and orchids adorning our bed.

February 20
After breakfast at the hotel which included French pastries, fresh fruit, congee (rice porridge) and Asian vegetable dishes, we walked to a sampan for our cruise along the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda.  This Buddhist monastery was one of the few structures left undamaged in the Vietnam war.  The monastery is home to a sizable number of monks and novice monks, from very young boys to very old monks.  It is a serene, beautiful spot. 

Figure 55.  water taxi to Thien Mu Pagoda

Figure 56. Water taxi to Thien Mu Pagoda — Happy Buddha being offered the opportunity to buy a Happy Buddha.  The two are now happily together here in Weihai!

Figure 57. Water taxi to Thien Mu Pagoda  — the pagoda viewed from boat.

Figure 58.  Water taxi to Thien Mu Pagoda — our taxi returning to the dock

Figure 59.  Thein Mu Pagoda.  Old woman on her boat-house

Figure 60. Thien Mu Pagoda

Figure 61. Thien Mu Pagoda

Figure 62. Thien Mu Pagoda.  alter

Figure 63. Thien Mu Pagoda grounds

It was a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, from this monastery who burned himself during the war to protest the government’s oppression of Buddhism in favor of Catholicism.   WIkipedia says, “Hòa thượng Thích Quảng Đức[a] (Vietnamese pronunciation: [tʰɪ̌c kwãːŋ ɗɨ̌k], Saigon: [tʰɪ̌t kwɐ̂ːŋ ɗɨ̌k]  ( listen); born Lâm Văn Tức (1897 – 11 June 1963) was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963. Thích Quảng Đức was protesting against the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s Ngô Đình Diệm administration. Photos of his self-immolation were circulated widely across the world and brought attention to the policies of the Diệm regime. Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his iconic photo of the monk’s death, as did David Halberstam for his written account. After his death, his body was re-cremated, but his heart remained intact.[2][3] This was interpreted as a symbol of compassion and led Buddhists to revere him as a bodhisattva, heightening the impact of his death on the public psyche.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Qu%E1%BA%A3ng_%C4%90%E1%BB%A9c

Figure 64. Thien Mu Pagoda.  The  car used by Monk Thich Quang Duc to drive to Saigon to burn himself.

Returning toward Hue, we stopped at a “garden house” for tea.  The woman who once lived at this house was a benefactor to the Thein Mu Buddhist monastery.  She is now dead, but her descendents still live in the house and welcome guests from all over the world to their home to enjoy the gardens and have tea.  The pond in the garden had some gorgeous lotus blossoms and the camellia bushes on either side of the main walkway were blooming.  Two camellia bushes in a family garden denoted that this was a home of a Mandarin, an administrative bureaucrat to the King, who lived in the Imperial Palace.  “The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual – house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.”*

Figure 65.  Ancient Garden House near the Pagoda.  Entry gate

Figure 66.  Ancient Garden House near the Pagoda. Lotus pond in front of guest room

Figure 67.  Ancient Garden House near the Pagoda.   Lotus blossom

Figure 68.   Ancient Garden House near the Pagoda.  Inside tea room and family alter

Figure 69.   Ancient Garden House near the Pagoda.  Deb and Finnie with the current owner — a member of the family who built the house.

We returned to Hue, and after lunch we visited the Royal Tombs of Emperor Tu Duc and Emperor Khai Dinh. The two mausoleums span the long reign of the Nguyen King’s imperial dynasty showing a stark contrast between Sino-Vietnamese and European influenced architecture. We include a few pictures here to describe the difference between the two tombs.

 Each Royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. “Emperor Tự Đức (Hán tự: ) (22 September 1829 – 17 July 1883) (full name: Nguyễn Phúc Hồng Nhậm, also Nguyen Phuc Thi) was the fourth emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty of Vietnam and reigned from 1847–1883.

The son of Emperor Thiệu Trị, Prince Nguyễn Phúc Hồng Nhậm was born on 22 September 1829, and succeeded his father on the throne, with the reigning title of Tự Đức, but family troubles caused his era to have a violent start. Thiệu Trị had passed over his more moderate eldest son, Hồng Bảo, to give the throne to Tự Đức, known for his staunch Confucianism and opposition to foreigners and innovation. As a result, and due to the repressive policies of the previous Nguyễn Dynasty emperor, there was now a great deal of dissatisfaction with Nguyễn rule and a legitimate royal figure to rally this opposition.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%E1%BB%B1_%C4%90%E1%BB%A9c

Figure 70.  Emperor Tu Duc mausoleum.  Poetry House

Figure 71. Emperor Tu Duc mausoleum.

Figure 72. Emperor Tu Duc mausoleum.  Tomb courtyard

The tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an unprepossessing concrete construction on the side of a wide valley. The use of fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration demonstrate a European influence.  The  views from the courtyard in front of the mausoleum are very lovely.

Figure 73.  Emperor Khai Dinh mausoleum.

Figure 74.  Emperor Khai Dinh mausoleum.  View of the valley below

Figure 75.  Emperor Khai Dinh mausoleum.  Tomb room

 

Figure 76.  Emperor Khai Dinh mausoleum

Figure 77.   Emperor Khai Dinh mausoleum.  Lots of use of glass and ceramic pieces for decoration

We had dinner at a restaurant in the rear of the old imperial palace.  The building was originally a summer home for the King – pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of another of the garden houses.

Figure 78.  Imperial Garden Restaurant.  A course served on a carving of a cock using pumpkin and pineapple

Figure 79.  Imperial Garden Restaurant.  A course served as a phoenix

February 21

 Another nice breakfast and our guide and driver picked us up along with our large number of suitcases for a drive across the high mountain pass of Hai Van to Danang.   At the top of the pass we could just barely see through the fog Lang Co beach and village, and the lagoon far below, with Danang spread out  to the south.

In Danang, we stopped for a brief look at the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum before leaving for Hoi An.  This was another new piece of knowledge.  “The people of Champa were descended from Malayo-Polynesian settlers who appear to have reached the Southeast Asian mainland from Borneo about the time of the Sa Huynh culture in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. …  The kingdom of Champa was an Indianized kingdom that controlled what is now southern and central Vietnam from approximately the 7th century through to 1832.  … From the 7th to the 10th centuries, the Cham controlled the trade in spices and silk between China, India, the Indonesian islands, and the Abbassid empire in Baghdad. They supplemented their income from the trade routes not only by exporting ivory and aloe, but also by engaging in piracy and raiding.  In the 4th century, wars with the neighboring Kingdom of Funan in Cambodia and the acquisition of Funanese territory led to the infusion of Indian culture into Cham society….. Sanskrit was adopted as a scholarly language, and Hinduism, especially Shaivism, became the state religion. From the 10th century onwards Arab maritime trade in the region brought increasing Islamic cultural and religious influences.  (excerpts from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champa)

Figure 80.  Examples of sculptures in Cham Museum.

Figure 81.  Examples of sculptures in Cham Museum.

Figure 82. Examples of sculptures in Cham Museum.

After lunch we walked through the Ancient Town of Hoi An, remarkably undamaged in the war.  Hoi An town is a UNESCO World Heritage area. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark in the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. The original traditional street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favourable trade winds to carry them home.

Figure 83.  Hoi An – old city

Figure 84.   Hoi An – old city

Figure 85.   Hoi An – old city

Figure 86.   Hoi An – old city

Figure 87.  Hoi An – old city.  Chinese Community Center

We checked into what became our favourite hotel of the trip: the Ancient House Hotel.

Figure 88.  Hoi An – old city.  Ancient House Hotel — Our room

Figure 89. Hoi An – old city.  Ancient House Hotel — Deb on balcony of our room

 

Figure 90. Hoi An – old city.  Ancient House Hotel — at the restaurant

Figure 91.   Hoi An – old city.  Ancient House Hotel — Our room

February 22  

This day was so much fun!  We were picked up by Trang, our guide, from the family owned Jack Tran Eco-Tour business.  The day started with a walk through the carefully tended vegetable gardens of Hoi An.  We specifically visited the gardens of a very sweet 70 year old woman.  She showed us her different vegetable plots and then showed us how she prepares her vegetable gardens with fresh water kelp gathered in man made large ponds.  We even “helped” her water her gardens with watering cans suspended from a shoulder harness.

Figure 92.   Hoi An – Organic Garden Community

Figure 93.     Hoi An – Organic Garden Community.  Lady applying organic fertilizer — water weed — to a plant bed

Figure 94.    Hoi An – Organic Garden Community – Lady covering the water weed with soil

 

Figure 95.     Hoi An – Organic Garden Community.  Lady planting seedlings

Figure 96.     Hoi An – Organic Garden Community.  Trang and Finnie “helping” lady plant seedlings

Figure 97.     Hoi An – Organic Garden Community  – Lady watering the plantings

Figure 98.    Hoi An – Organic Garden Community – Lady watering two beds at once

Figure 99.     Hoi An – Organic Garden Community .  Deb “helping” water beds

Figure 100.     Hoi An – Organic Garden Community — Lady with Deb and Finnie.  She (the lady) is the smaller one, by the way — sigh…

Figure 101.     Hoi An – Organic Garden Community – Lady picking some of our lunch

After a tea break, we mounted our trusty borrowed bicycles and  cycled over  the narrow paths through the countryside, passing by rice paddy fields, water buffalos, bamboo bridges and local farmers on their daily work. Finnie was able to take many more pictures than me, as I was quite intent on staying upright in the narrow bicycle path groove on top of the paddy banks, while skirting past water buffalo and cows, intent on not moving out of my way.  We cycled to meet our boat at the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary where the river meets the Cua Dai Sea and we cruised along the coastline observing the lives of the local fishermen.

Figure 102.    Hoi An – Organic Garden Community – path between sets of ponds where water weed, shrimp, and fish are raised

Figure 103. Hoi An – Organic Garden Community – path between sets of ponds where water weed, shrimp, and fish are raised

Figure 104. Hoi An – Organic Garden Community – path between sets of ponds where water weed, shrimp, and fish are raised, and water buffalo roam!

We joined the  fisherman to ride in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat to float through a water palm coconut canal. ‘Thung Chai Basket boats, similar in style to coracles in use throughout the ancient world, are widely used throughout Central Vietnam, and are highly suited to the local terrain and lifestyles of local fishermen due to their relative light weight and portability, often doubling as a carrier for various handy items. Circular and constructed of bamboo and tarred for waterproofing, these small boats can typically carry up to five Vietnamese people.”*

Figure 105.  Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An

Figure 106. Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An

Figure 107. Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An — Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod

Figure 108.  Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.

 

Figure 109. Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  Chit chat.

Figure 110.  Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  casting net fishing

Figure 111.   Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  casting net fishing

Figure 112.   Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  casting net fishing

Figure 113.    Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  Trang spreading her wings over the bow of the Titanic.  (Thanks Trang … sigh!

During the American War, Viet Cong soldiers made use of this area as a highly effective hiding place from enemy attacks through the war. We got off the  boat and tried our hand at casting fishing nets.

Figure 114.   Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  An area used by Viet Cong to live and hide during raids.

We returned to the boat to enjoy a freshly prepared seafood and fresh garden veggies lunch.  The captain of our boat was also the cook!

Figure 115.   Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  lunch.

Figure 116.    Tour of fishing industry at Hoi An.  Demonstration of how to use rice paper to wrap veggies and meat to eat.

February 23

Today we drove from Hoi An to Danang to fly to Hanoi.  When we arrived in Hanoi, our guide and driver picked us up at the airport.  After what seemed to us as a harrowing ride through heavily congested motorcycle, car and pedestrian traffic, we arrived at a beautiful hotel in the heart of downtown Hanoi, the Silk Path Hotel.  We discovered the Italian restaurant in the hotel and Finnie declared that the Marguerita pizza he ordered was “the best he has had anywhere in the world!”  We had three dinners in this restaurant and each time, the Marguerita pizza was exquisite!

Figure 117.  Street scenes in Hanoi

Figure 118. Street scenes in Hanoi — breakfast on the street

After dinner, our guide and driver picked us up to take us to the Water Puppet theatre.  We enjoyed an  hour-long show featuring water puppets acting out life in rural Vietnam accompanied by live traditional Vietnamese music.   “Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century CE when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition. … The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_puppetry)  Sorry, we both forgot our cameras (very unusual), so we have no photos to show.

 February 24

 

After a lovely French/Asian buffet breakfast, we were picked up to drive to Bat Trang. We walked in the small alleys of this old village to watch local people producing their fine ceramic products and visit some of the houses used as workshops and showrooms. We walked past many new houses whose front yards supported huge collections of bonsai trees.  Finnie’s fascination in Bonsai trees resulted in many photos, some of which are here.

Figure 119.  Penzai in the ceramic village.  Grown for sale

Figure 120.  Penzai in the ceramic village.  Grown for sale

Figure 121.  Ceramic Village in Hanoi.  Milling clay for making pottery

Figure 122. Ceramic Village in Hanoi.  Hand painting cups

Figure 123.  Ceramic Village in Hanoi.  Using stencils to apply figures to vessels

Figure 124.  Ceramic Village in Hanoi.  — Hauling pottery — Two Ming’s on a motor bike

Figure 125. Ceramic Village in Hanoi.  Hauling pottery

Figure 126.  Ceramic Village in Hanoi.  Hauling Pottery — on a bicycle!

We lunched at a cafe in a family home in Tam Tao.  There we met two young American men, fellow travellers.  After lunch we all enjoyed a short musical presentation of traditional Quang Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have recently been officially designated as part of Vietnam’s ‘living heritage’.

Figure 127.  Lunch in Tam Tao

Figure 128.  Music Pavilion at Tam Tao

Figure 129.  Music at Tam Tao

We drove to Dong Ho village – famous for its traditional paintings. Also in Dong Ho village, the inhabitants make their living making and selling paper relics of items to sacrifice on behalf of relatives who have died.  These are purchased by people to burn in a special ceremony honouring their deceased ancestors.   (For example, Qingming — grave sweeping day — occurred on April 5 this year here in China, and we saw lots of these types of items on sale and in use April 4 and April 5.)

Figure 130.  Visit to Dong Ho

Figure 131. Visit to Dong Ho — wood blocks for printing figures

Figure 132.  Visit to Dong Ho — Woodblock painting

Figure 133.  Visit to Dong Ho  — Block painting in progress

Figure 134.  Visit to Dong Ho — making paper replicas of objects for sacrifice

Figure 135.  Visit to Dong Ho — Proud mom with cute kid.

 February 25

After breakfast, our driver picked us up for the 4 hour drive to Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape.  

On the way, we passed through many rice paddies and villages.

Figure 136.  Rice paddy.  Transplanting rice seedlings

Figure 137. Rice Paddy.  Collecting seedlings for transplantation

Figure 138.  Tractor and trailer in town

In Ha Long, we became part of a 8 passenger – 5 crew member – 1 guide cruise in a private wooden junk that took us through the Bai Tu Long Bay area.  Our boat was the Red Dragon Junk. It’s based on the model of the old Chinese court vessels with three barge sails, a wide transom and a rectangular superstructure. We stopped at a quiet sandy beach.  While the other passengers toured a cave, kayaked around a karst, and swam, we watched them from our comfortable lounge chairs on board the Red Dragon junk.   From there we cruised to a quiet cove where we stopped for the night. 

Figure 139.  Ha Long Bay.  Leaving Ha Long Harbor aboard the Red Dragon II

Figure 140.  Welcome lunch aboard the Red Dragon II

Figure 141.  Aboard the Red Dragon II in HaLong Bay

Figure 142. Aboard the Red Dragon II in HaLong Bay

Figure 143.  Aboard the Red Dragon II in HaLong Bay

Figure 144. Aboard the Red Dragon II in HaLong Bay — Anchored for the night

Dinner was served with much fanfare.  The food was delicious.

Figure 145.  Dinner aboard the Red Dragon II

Figure 146.  Dinner aboard the Red Dragon II

Figure 147.  Dinner aboard the Red Dragon II — Speeches and singing

February 26

As on the Mekong Delta, the turning on of the motor, was our alarm clock.  After breakfast, we continued our cruise to visit a fishing village that actually consisted of houseboats moored together to form a small village.  The villagers make their living with mari-culture growing fish, clams, oysters, and harvesting cultured pearls. 

Figure 149.  Visit to a floating fishing village in Ha Long bay

Figure 150.  Visit to a floating fishing village in Ha Long bay

Figure 151.  Visit to a floating fishing village in Ha Long bay

 

Figure 152. Visit to a floating fishing village in Ha Long bay

Figure 153. Visit to a floating fishing village in Ha Long bay — a natural tunnel through a Karst

Figure 154.  Visit to a floating fishing village in Ha Long bay – a floating vegetable market going to the village with fresh produce

We cruised back to dock and returned back at the Silk Path Hotel in time for another Marguerita pizza supper!  The following day we flew from Hanoi to Weihei, China arriving in our apartment about 9 PM.  It felt like good to be back home!

Obviously, we thoroughly enjoyed this trip!

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This entry was posted in Return to Weihai -- Tour of Vietnam. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Deb and Finnie Tour Vietnam

  1. Helen says:

    Enjoyed reading and especially liked the Red Dragon II pictures in Ha Long Bay

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