Mausoleum and water puppets

Ho Chi Minh's body is displayed at his mausoleum, near the old quarter. It s only open until 10:30 so we knew there would be no chance of seeing him. We went anyway, just to see it from outside and check out the mausoleum complex. There is a Ho Chi Minh propaganda centre museum, a lovely tiny temple (the One Column Pagoda), gardens and open square areas (not as big as expected, I thought they would be a bit more over the top) and the mausoleum itself, a proper totalitarian concrete neoclassic symmetrical carbuncle with serious-looking soldiers dressed in white dotted about the place.

After getting told off by the soldiers (not sure if it was because Esther and Lucas were running around in front of Ho Chi Minh's resting place or because Aisha crossed a yellow line, or both) we spent some time by the pagoda. Lucas and Aisha found some rooms and, deciding there were too many leaves, decided to sweep the place. They could have spent hours there so finally we dragged them off back to the old quarter for lunch.

Water puppetry originated in Northern Vietnam in the 12th century. The shows were played during the rainy season when everything was flooded. I'm not a great fan of traditional music in general, especially from Southeast Asia. Vietnamese music is no exception, to me it sounds a bit like Ali Farka Toure on Valium. But together with the puppets it was all right. Bit 'a culture innit. The puppets have some quite cool moves for things made out of wood and wire. The stage itself is a pool (hence the name) and they are controlled by some sticks which disappear under the water, with the puppet masters hidden behind some blinds.

Went to the post office to send a few useless items back to Madrid. We no longer need one of our guide books, nor the mosquito nets. Also sent off a couple of pairs of shoes that Lucas and Aisha have hardly used. With that gone we have a bit more space in the backpacks.

Early rise tomorrow - we have a 7:20 bus to Cat Ba, an island in Halong Bay.

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