This past Christmas Eve in Hanoi was as memorable as they get. We spent the entire day strolling (and sometimes crawling over pedicabs when the traffic stalled) through the maze of streets in the Old Quarter, walking in to all kinds of interesting scenes.
This school had just completed its Christmas program, and we peeked inside the heavy gates to see these children decked out in their Santa outfits. Cultural note: in the States, parents are weary of strange lurkers outside a school. Not so in Vietnam. The parents called out to us, ushered us in, and had their kids pose for us.
We got completely ripped off buying one of these Santa hats. The sneaky guy shortchanged us. Where's your Xmas spirit, man?
Yes, once again I force Sean into hats or costumes and make him smile for the camera...
I loved seeing large groups of people out together enjoying coffee and snacks all over town. This scene is in front of the local Old Quarter Catholic Church, St. Joseph's.
That night, we attended a special performance at a Water Puppet Theater.
Musicians sat to the side and serenaded as these unique puppets emerged from the water and splashed the audience, whipped around in circles, and reenacted traditional tales. I half-way expected to fall asleep (I do that sometimes, even sleeping through intermissions), but it was a lively event.
When we walked out of the theater, whoa! We couldn't believe our eyes.
Swarms of motorbikes trying to fit in a tiny area. Think Times Square New Year's Eve in the sheer number of people and energy in the air. At first, I thought all the hoopla was for the holiday. Then it dawned on me. I bet that same public meeting area is just as crowded, hectic, and pulsing every night of the week.
Vietnam Travel Tip#2: Many tour companies and even hotels offer excursions to the Water Puppet Shows for extremely jacked up prices, as high as $25 a person. We visited the theater ourselves earlier in the day and bought our tickets for about $3 each.