HANOI: A TRIP TO NORTH VIETNAM
They burn everything: food, money, clothes, tablets. Sacrificial fires blaze along the roads, at snack bars and shops. So on the central streets of Hanoi, Tryng Nguyen is celebrated – the day of wandering souls. This is the second most important holiday – after Tet Nguyen Dan, the Vietnamese New Year.
Three young men in greasy T-shirts and knee-high shorts right on the sidewalk, a meter away from hundreds of motorbikes passing by, collect a car model from cardboard. Such a car on the streets of Vietnam almost does not meet: in the country the tax on owning a car sometimes exceeds its cost. Here it is really a luxury, not a means of transportation. But a model made of paper the size of a shoebox is not a child’s toy, but an offering to deceased ancestors.
Vietnamese believe that after death they can become millionaires – thanks to the sacrifices made by descendants. A few minutes later the cardboard car men burn. Together with the clothes, similar to the doll, and fake dongs – the so-called Vietnamese currency.
“Through fire, they are transmitted to that light and materialize in the next world. Our dead relatives will receive these things as soon as we burn them, ”says Chin, a smiling and bustling middle-aged Vietnamese guide. Tryng Nguyen has been celebrated for several centuries on the fifteenth day of the seventh moon – this is August in the European calendar. The Vietnamese believe that part of the offerings will go to those who are forgotten alive, and those who have no relatives left on earth, to the very same wandering souls.
Hanoi, translated from Vietnamese, is “a city surrounded by a river”: it stands on the banks of the Hongha, or Red River. Instead of tributaries – the streets are similar to the mall, which runs hundreds of thousands of motorbikes, covering the crossroads with huge waves. The traffic here is dense and so slow that the drivers of the scooters manage to catch the PokГ © mon on the sidewalks right behind the wheel.
Craftsmen and small traders still live in the old quarters of Hanoi, which stretch along the Hongha River. Signs are not needed: that the shopkeepers sell, street names from Silk and Fan to Silver and Wooden are reported.
The metropolitan high-rise Hanoi is the reserved and official elder brother of the dissolute, loud Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city of Vietnam. Sellers in local shops do not stick, do not grab hands and do not bargain – they watchfully phlegmatically as tourists sort out the goods. Trade is completely prohibited on most of the central streets, but on others it turns off exactly at 22:00.
In Hanoi, in contrast to Ho Chi Minh, you can not so firmly press the backpack to his chest: in the capital, says guide Chin, do not steal. It happened historically. “Northern people resisted first to nature — mountains and floods, and then criminals. As soon as the next dynasty weakened, the emperors ceased to provide protection for the population. Because of hunger and uprisings, robbers appeared. And they learned to fight with them, ”Chin says. He learned Russian while studying in Moscow in the early 1990s.
Northern Vietnam is the oldest part of the country, and you can feel it not only when looking at historical monuments, of which there are more preserved than anywhere else. Take, for example, puppet theaters on the water: the tradition finally took shape by the XI century. “At that time, villages were often flooded. How to have fun? During the floods of rivers in ponds and wide reservoirs, the peasants staged performances using wooden dolls carved from a non-sinking fig tree in performances, ”Chin says. Nowadays puppet theater performances are traditionally held in a pool about a meter deep.
The puppeteer hides behind a wicker screen that looks like a pagoda. He controls the puppet with a long stick hidden under the water. So dolls – peasants, bulls, horses, dragons and turtles – come to life: it seems that they really walk on water. One of the best puppet theaters on the water is located in Hanoi. Performances under folk tunes take place every day.
Modern puppet theater is a naive art, not far from its origins. The performances based on fairy tales, myths and traditional Vietnamese holidays are a brief course of the country’s history: the battle of two dragons, the fairies perform the Tiger Dance, the farmer works the rice field, and the fisherman sets the nets. Five or six puppeteers take part in the performances. The most spectacular performances are accompanied by explosions of firecrackers under the water – this is how a fire-breathing dragon is depicted.
“What I liked about Vietnam was that there was always where to go. And there was always something to do, ”said Forrest Gump. Probably the highest concentration of classical sights – in Tam-Kok National Park in Ninh Binh Province, an hour and a half drive from Hanoi. There are rice fields, water lilies, and sheer cliffs, and caves, and pagodas, and tops covered with green velvet, like fingers sticking out of the water, which fearlessly climb.