Last week I discovered I’m a short distance from the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi’s top-rated museum. I checked my map twice and this fine Saturday morning I set out on foot with my camera for a quick visit. Quick because I had an appointment for lunch. I crossed busy Cau Giay and found the lane running north that would take me off the busy streets.
I’m enjoying exploring the lanes in my new neighbourhood. They’re packed with various businesses and interesting sights. I’m waiting until the locals get used to seeing me before I start poking my lens at their businesses. Most people seem quite happy to see me and I get many ‘Hellos’ as I walk. One could easily get lost in the maze of smaller and smaller lanes and alleys. A couple of days ago I discovered a tiny lake while walking along a lane. A small pagoda sat in the middle of the lake and and a tiny platform hosted a half dozen turtles, heads up and facing into the sun.
The walk to the museum was under half an hour and fairly pleasant, although I did have to walk along another busy road for the last bit. The entrance to the museum was under $2 and I bought a photography permit for a bit over $3.
It was such a fine day I thought I’d wander around the grounds first. I’d heard that the examples of ethnic housing were a must-see so I took off around back of the main building. I heard some loud music and discovered a water puppet performance in progress. I have not yet seen the famous water puppets in the theatre by Hoan Kiem Lake so this was a first for me.
I got a front row seat as it was their first performance of the day. Although I didn’t understand the stories I could get the gist of most of the action. Here we have two lines of flag bearers (red and blue) with three puppets bearing a tray of food to the far shore. A lady came over and received the little tray from them. In the right background you can just glimpse some of the musicians. One of the stories showed the sowing of rice which then ‘grew’ up out of the water. Then snakes came and ate the rats who were trying to eat the rice. (more on snakes soon!) And here’s a puppet out of the water:
After watching a half dozen or so of the short plays I walked around the grounds looking at the different houses.
The communal house is the tallest house in a village and is used also as a meeting place and reception area for visitors. Everything about this structure is vertical: the steps leading to the deck, the high roof and its height off the ground.
Inside were a series of photographs showing the construction of the house. All the houses were beautifully put together. I could see how the stilt houses would be excellent in the hot and humid days here. The air can easily move through the buildings and in really hot weather the occupants could live on the ground, under the house.
I’m never going to complain about a hard bed again! Some of the houses, like this one, visitors remove their shoes before entering. This house was built on the ground and had a fairly low ceiling. Although simply built it had some intricate decorations, especially around the doorways.
The Ede communal house is over 40 meters long! It is slightly raised off the ground. Inside it is divided into two sections: a large communal area and smaller private rooms on the other side.
Many young couples visit the museum. Here you can see some enjoying sitting by the windows in the dim, cool interior of the Ede longhouse.
Also on the grounds was a Giarai Tomb, a communal burial structure. The family members were entombed in matriarchal lineage within the building. The carvings surrounding it attracted many people posing for photos (this young man is posing for his friend, not me; I just happened to catch him posing).
I’ve seen replicas of the statuary on sale in the Old Quarter – if anyone needs one for their home….
Meanwhile around to the side I spotted some young people involved in a familiar activity:
I spent about two hours looking around the outdoor displays but then had to leave to meet my Vietnamese friend Tu for lunch. We found a small roadside cafe and sat down for soup. Lo! I think I’ve now officially eaten snake! Yep, there in my soup were strips of distinctly snake-like meat. I was brave and finished the whole thing; so far my stomach is OK (several hours later). I don’t know if I’d actively seek it out but it was doable.
After lunch I walked back to my apartment. Walking down my lane I saw this young fellow doing his Saturday chores.
I’m looking forward to returning to the museum and visiting the main exhibition spaces inside. Today, however, was a nice walk in the neighbourhood and an interesting time seeing some examples of different homes from around Vietnam.
OK, now my tummy’s gurgling…