We spent several days exploring the aptly named "Old Quarter" of Hanoi, as some of the streets are over 1,000 years old. My favorite day was Tết (or the Vietnamese New Year's Day). Just like back at home, shops were closed, and people were sleeping in. It was the perfect time to explore with our crew. A couple million fewer motorcycles to dodge.
We walked around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake and over a red bridge to view the temples and statues.
When it came time for a potty break, we were in dire straits. It was a national holiday so most places were closed. Finally we stopped at an official-looking building where two men in suits were chatting in the lobby. I stayed with Caleb in the foyer while one man guided Aaron and the others up some beautiful marble stairs. It was only as we were leaving that we noticed a sign in English indicating it was some sort of intelligence agency. Fabulous. What sort of surveillance did they now have of the Rausch family? I envisioned hidden cameras in discreet locations. If that was the case, Vietnam got to see us in all of our glory.
On another day we attended a traditional water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. My first thought, as we took our seats in the large theatre was: What the heck is a water puppet show? My second thought was: Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure our four, loud wiggle worms should not be seated in the front row. And when the first water puppet emerged, a rigid, lacquered figure flailing its wooden arms to the Vietnamese narration, I shot Aaron a "What did you just spend our money on?" look. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong.
Water puppetry is a fascinating ancient art in which puppeteers stand in waist deep water hidden behind a curtain, and control puppets supported by large rods. The puppets appear to be moving over the water. The show was highly entertaining for all ages. The costumes and story lines became more and more elaborate as the show continued. There were even fire-breathing dragons at one point. We weren't allowed to take pictures during the show, so I am shamelessly using one I found online:
"Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre2" by Gryffindor - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thang_Long_Water_Puppet_Theatre2.JPG#/media/File:Thang_Long_Water_Puppet_Theatre2.JPG
We ate traditional Vietnamese fare until the kids complained they were starving (at which point we found a great Italian place overlooking St. Joseph's Cathedral). Caleb was so tuckered out that the owner had pity on him and created a makeshift crib from the oversized, comfy chairs.
The following morning we went on an extremely bumpy bus ride during which Caleb became airborne and landed head-first on the metal floor between the seats. And the Parents of the Year Award goes to…
The bus dropped us off at Halong Bay. There we boarded a boat called The Legend and cruised the Bay for about 2 days. Lovely boat. Quaint rooms with no internet or electronics (cue the gasps from the children). Long, communal dining table glistening with wine glasses and real [glass] plates with nary a highchair or plastic cup in sight. Oh dear. And finally, the observation deck where lovers could lean against the rails in a warm embrace or relax on the lounge chairs, a cool breeze blowing in their hair, listening to the sounds of the water lapping against the side of the boat. At least that's what they were listening to before we arrived. Pretty soon the sounds of running, shouting, whining, laughing, and crying could drown out even the engine going at full speed. I'm pretty sure we had the honeymooners thinking twice about cozying up in their cabins.
(This is how Caleb napped on the boat. Safety first!)
Despite my sadness that we ruined the romantic atmosphere aboard the ship, I'm glad we made the trip. We got to canoe up to a traditional floating fishing village, visit a beach, and venture up into the caves that are found inside the astounding rock formations rising from the bay. We bumped our way back to Hanoi and explored some more.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we visited the infamous Hỏa Lò Prison. See previous post for details (http://rauschfamilycircus.blogspot.com/2015/02/good-morning-vietnam.html).
We also stopped at The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (where countless tourists requested to take pictures of/with the kids). At one point, we noticed someone following us with a camcorder. Maddie whispered a bit nervously, "Are we famous, mommy?" I was tempted to explain that we are famous in the way that reality TV stars are famous…in a freak-show kind of way. Our four little ones (including a pale skin, blond-haired baby) tend to stick out in Asia. Seeking to reassure her and minimize my own embarrassment, I smiled and said, "Yes, Maddie, I suppose we are a little." And with that, she put her hand on her hip and struck a pose. Oh my.
We continued walking to the One Pillar Pagoda, a famous historic Buddhist temple.
Finally, it was time to return to the airport. Along the road, there was a beautiful tile mosaic that stretched on and on for ages.
We bought some snacks and headed for the next line: immigration. There weren't many people in front of us, but it was still taking a long time. The kids began to run around again. We were shushing them and telling them to stand still. Jack was sitting on the tiles. At first, I assumed he was just tired and didn't think it too odd. Silly me.
"I poopted!" he shouted.
My eyes widened. "What?" I hissed, scurrying over to him. The Asian couple behind us exchanged an incredulous look.
"I poopted," he said simply.
"You mean you need to go poop?" I was confused. Jack has been potty trained for nearly two years. Surely he couldn't really mean…
I lifted him from the floor and [whew!] could immediately tell that he wasn't kidding. It was bad news. We were trapped. People in front of us. People behind us. No bathroom in sight. Jack was waddling. Fantastic.
As he stood uncomfortably in line, I wrangled the rest of the kids into position. I attempted to ignore the various onlookers and prayed our turn would come soon. It did. But then there was security. Jack waddled through. I grabbed him and ran full speed ahead to the nearest restroom.
We left our own little souvenir in Vietnam. Jack rode home commando. So long, Vietnam!