We saw the afternoon Water Puppet Theatre show as one of the last things we did in Hanoi; someone from our hotel went over to buy the tickets for us, because they clearly do sell out, and then we finally managed to get there in the rain. I was starting to panic a bit, thinking that the city was really flooding, and wondering what we were going to do, but I have to say that this was one of those rare times when Googling actually relieved stress instead of causing it. After looking up "Hanoi flooding" it quickly became obvious to me that this was not, actually, flood conditions. Sure, the streets were solidly full of water, with the lake overflowing onto the path we'd walked around a couple mornings ago, and the drains blocked, and sure, the sidewalks near the puppet theatre had a good 2-3" of standing water on them, and sure, water was pouring into the basement-level shops and restaurants, but business proceeded as usual. Trains kept running on time (including ours, later that evening), and poncho sellers plied their wares, and tourists kept packing in to see the charming wooden puppets on long sticks "dance" across the water. The show was completely in Vietnamese, but Samantha made up long involved stories in English to go along with them. Marcus seemed to initially think he was too cool for puppets, but he did love the fire-breathing dragon puppets, and then the unicorn and phoenix puppets that joined them.
We went back to the hotel and Robert grabbed bun from a place down the street, and we ate in the hotel dining room/lobby until it was time to head to the train station. The hotel kept trying to send someone to the station with us, to carry an umbrella over me and the baby, but we insisted we were fine. Then we actually forgot the kids' ponchos, drying somewhere, and called back to the hotel and they ran them over to us at the train station (we did tip nicely). In case you can't tell, and in case you're ever in Hanoi, I highly recommend the Golden Palace Hotel folks--they were all very friendly and lovely, and gave us some of the best service we had in all of Vietnam.
That evening we got on SE1, in the Livitrans car, for an overnight train ride to Danang. This was Samantha's first overnight train ride, and the first one Marcus remembered, since he was under two when we took trains back in India. The kids adored their bunks and in fact were so excited they turned hyper, and it was somewhat hard for Robert to get any sleep. Helen and I were asleep before the train left the station.
Marcus curled up with us on a lower bunk, at first just cuddling and then soon fast asleep.
At some point he and Samantha switched, and I slept with her on a lower bunk for awhile too.
By morning, everyone was awake and I was energized, thrilled to be watching the countryside out the winter. Robert had banged his head on a couple different places and was a tad less happy. But we ate our (provided) instant noodles and ate some of the snacks we brought, and counted water buffalo out the window and had a great time.
Coming into Danang, we were able to see this giant "Lady Buddha," the goddess of mercy, from the train, and also a beautiful bridge in the shape of two dragons. We were sorry we never got to see that bridge at night, because it lit up and looked like the dragons were breathing fire.
On this train ride, and on the others we'd take over the next week, sellers would spot you from the window as the train pulled into small stations and hold up things to see what you wanted. Then they'd barrel onto the train and bang on our compartment door, startling all of us despite our window pantomime of just seconds before. We bought some delicious chicken and sticky rice with pork floss (which Marcus couldn't get enough of) this way.
The train stations in general were nowheres near as congested or crazy as they were in India. There were fewer platforms and really only one train in a station at a time, so not too much could go wrong. No one hassled us about carrying our luggage for us, either, though when I had a sprained ankle (on the next overnight train) and Marcus was asleep, that might have been useful. Samantha was not a fan of the bathrooms, as of course I wasn't either, but everywhere I went I brought toilet paper and soap, and we really needed both of those many many times over the course of the trip. The key to the train bathrooms is to go right away and then hold it for the entire ride, I think. When I did once have to go near the end of the trip, it was really touch and go, but I made it.
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Created: 9/3/16. Last Modified: 9/3/16.