Date Traveled, February 2013
Yen Duc village on the road between Ha Long and Hanoi is a scenic village with pretty vistas of wide rice fields and green hills in the distance. It was an unplanned destination that was foisted on us, but we enjoyed it regardless.
On our return trip to Hanoi from our Ha Long Bay cruise, our group of eight people on the Red Dragon junk were all packed into the same minivan at the Indochina junk dock. I think we had gotten along well and were used to each others company so were glad to be sharing our ride back to Hanoi together. We were all eager to get back to Hanoi but weren't informed about a diversion to Yen Duc village. It was provided as an extension for our Ha Long cruise so we knew about it but no one in the group had signed up for it. We figured we would be just having a quick pit stop at Yen Duc but the village was actually a ways away from the highway on narrow dirt roads in between paddy fields, which seemed like you much trouble for just a restroom stop and that we because it wasn't just a restroom stop.
All the returning vans from the Indochina junk company stopped around the same time here. It was an organized operation waiting to greet us there. We were welcomed and provided number coded badges by van and first directed to a restroom area which were relatively clean. After the group had gathered they directed us out the back building deeper into the village promising they have a very short show for us. I immediately suspected something else after how much they stressed on the word short :-)
The water puppet theater
After walking a short distance through a couple of narrow lanes between large houses in the village we came on to large open rice fields surrounded by the other village houses, compounds, trees and plants. In the distance were green hills and the overcast sky did not in any way diminish the vista with the lush green fields. Our group really enjoyed the walk and the views and stopped a lot for pictures. We soon fell far behind the rest of the groups and our chaperone politely tried to hurry us on which was a futile effort. Eventually we reached the other end of the rice field where there was a small open pavilion with a little pool in front of a building, a water puppet theater.
We had heard a lot about the Thang Long water puppet theater in Hanoi and had walked by it frequently in our meanderings around the town but never felt like going to see a show. Well this was our chance to see one, foisted on us but why not enjoy it while you are there? And the setting was nice enough. I can't comment on the quality of the show compared to the famous ones not having experienced those, but it was interesting and the accompanying music and chanting was not unpleasant...but that really lasted for all of maybe 10 or 15 minutes before I started to get fidgety. Not that I didn't like it but without understanding the commentary, the puppets swaying around and the chanting starts to get repetitive. I wanted to leave...but it was another young lady in our group who took the initiative, like a collective sigh our whole group followed our leader.
We enjoyed the return back through the fields and believed we could leave and start the ride back to Hanoi since the whole group was together. Our driver thought so too but before he could leave he was instructed to wait. We didn't really want to make a fuss so we just relaxed around and had to wait another 20 minutes or so before the rest if the groups got back and the vans left together. It was an interesting pit stop but just be warned about the fact they make you wait an hour in the village when you go with Indochina Junk to Ha Long bay. I otherwise had no problems with them and would be happy to take another cruise on the Red Dragon in spectacular Ha Long.