Sunday, June 1, 2008

Vietnam Trip (Part IV)

Water Puppets and the Perfume Pagoda Trip

We went to see the water puppets last night and once again the reality exceeded my expectations. The theater is rather large and we had first row seats (first row from the back!). Mike was grumbling because we had been told 'you gotta sit down front' (after watching Gallaher on TV, I wasn't 100% sure that was a good idea). What really happened was I did the booking and those were the seats we got. Mike was giving me a ration about that before the start.

The program kicked off with traditional Vietnamese music. Very unusual and very pleasant. Mike and I both like drums. The slidey string thing made some pretty music and the flute was cool. We both liked the musical prelude.

The stage looked just like the pictures. Water. No surprise there. When the music and singing started and then the little plays began, we were enthralled. the dragons which squirted water and breathed sparks and smoke were hot numbers. The duck herding sequence reminded my of Dorsey keeping our company on course and each little scene was exquisite.

Everything was done to music (lots of drums, so we liked that). There was one about planting rice and plowing the fields with water buffaloes that was way too cool. At one point, the two water buffaloes got into a head banging ruckus just like the one I saw in real life. I was going, "wow, I saw that!" And then the little kid broke apart the two fighting behemoths and things returned to pastoral normal. Damn, it really was exactly what I saw when I was waiting by the side of the road while Mike got the brake handle fixed. (Did I tell you about that? I think I did.)

The finale involved a troop of 8 or 10 lady puppets who somehow danced and spun and did a sort of do-see-do to the music. So how did they keep the control sticks from getting tangled? Mike says the puppeteers were under water holding their breath. But I doubt that.

Today I went on a tour to see the Perfume Pagoda. Actually the Perfume Pagoda is a region with a lot of pagodas. It was good, but not up to the magic of the other trips we took. There was a nice 3 mile boat ride which was rowed by a young lady at a very quick pace. The countryside became mountainous and we hiked up a trail to a cavern with a bunch of Buddhist altars and stuff. Pretty cool. On the down side, it was very hot and dry hiking. And there were numerous stalls selling curios, sodas and beer which reminded me of driving through the New Mexico desert--you know, "last gas for 50 miles, see the giant Gila monster".

I did see another very spectacular pagoda complex and overall I'll give the trip a rating that it's something worth doing. You should probably do it first, so the other ones will build on your experience.

On the way back, I hung out the back window of the bus and tried to photograph my last impressions of Vietnam. Two things I saw, but didn't get the photo were the duck herder with a row of ducks and the little boy riding the back of a water buffalo. Oh, well, I'll just have to come back again someday.

I did get some classic traffic photos and a couple of Thit Cho restaurant signs. Missed the ones with dinner in a cage, though. I have seen my first 3 rolls of photos and I'm stoked. Not that I caught every magic moment, but I did get a lot of the flavor.

Tonight, we're going to eat at a Hue style restaurant. Tomorrow, I fly home.

A few last nuggets:

There are changes coming.

I have seen nothing unpleasant from the Gov't or the cops. Mostly, they just let things go with the flow. Maybe there's more to it than what I have seen.

Had lunch at a restaurant called "No More Noodles" yesterday. You may draw your own conclusions.

The other day, Mike looked funny sitting on a 6 inch high chair. I liked it even better when he stood up and the chair stayed stuck to his ass!

Every kitchen I have seen (I try very hard not to look) has made the raunchiest TJ taco stand look like an operating room. Beyond scary!

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