Jan 18, 2019
Ca Tru Hanoi at the Dinh Kim Ngan Temple
(4 stars out of 5)
Showtimes: 8:00pm to 9:00pm, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sunday
Venue: Kim Ngan Temple
Location: 42 Hang Bac Street, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone: 098 523 2943 (Ms. Han), 091 354 4876 (Ms. Bach Van), 090 325 9785 (Mr. Hung)
What is Ca Tru?
Exactly my thoughts when I first heard of it. Ca Tru is a long-enduring Vietnamese musical genre reminiscent of an opera. In its heyday when Vietnam was still a kingdom, it used to be an indulgence of royalty and society's elite. The somber sounding music is about love, nature and country. But times have changed. As a musical tradition, its future hangs in precarious balance as veteran performers age and younger people turn to more popular music. Many Ca Trus across Vietnam have closed shop. This one in Hanoi is barely surviving with but a handful of audience in its 3x/week performance - 7 people this evening. Tonight's performance was special because a TV crew was present to film the event.
The one-hour program consisted of songs, a dance number while several unfamiliar musical instruments were featured. The performers were in colorful traditional clothes and the show was held inside Kim Ngan Temple, Hanoi's oldest standing temple which only added to the ambience and the intimate setting. Before a performance, an introduction is made on what the song was about and the unique musical instrument used. This gave us a better appreciation of what the performance was all about.
Ca Tru comes alive in Hanoi at the Dinh Kim Ngan Temple through the tireless efforts of the Hanoi Ca Tru Club. All the performers are seasoned with their unique talents, be it a musical instrument, song or dance. The presence of a talented 16 year old as Ca Tru's youngest performer is a ray of hope to the genre's sustenance - Nguyen Phuong Tra My. Her rendition of the music is both heart-felt and moving. She could be the light at the end of this tunnel. When you see it live and only a few feet away from the performers, the music takes a life all its own. Hanoi could also be your last chance to witness authentic traditional Ca Tru as its presence dims across the country.
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(Jan 21, 2019) Many thanks for putting our story on the page. We are so happy and honored. It came out much sooner than I expected. And special thanks for your appreciations to our arts. From my own observation, about 45% (if not less) of audience really like our Ca Tru and 55% don't have much impression. So each person of the 45% do count a lot for us.
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Next stop: Exploring the Culinary Specialties of Hanoi
Hanoi (city), Vietnam
- Hanoi, the Third Time Around Jul 27 - Aug 1, 2019
- 18-Day Mini-Life in Hanoi Jan 6-24, 2019
- Cafescape of Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam Jan 6-24, 2019
- Peoplescape of Hanoi Jan 6-24, 2019
- Exploring the Culinary Specialties of Hanoi Jan 6-24, 2019
- Ca Tru Hanoi at the Dinh Kim Ngan Temple Jan 18, 2019
- Hanoi Food Tour with Harry Jan 16, 2019
- Hanoi Revisited Jan 6, 2019
- Exploring the Northern Capital of Vietnam - Hanoi Jan 4-7, 2015
Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) to Old Quarter, Hanoi by Bus
The airport is about 30kms away from the Old Quarter so it could be pricey if you cab it. For budget travelers, there is the air-conditioned tourist bus #86 which starts from inside the airport when you walk out the door and takes you all the way to Old Quarter for only VND35k, 30 mins.
NOTE: if you use Google Maps, it will tell you that you have to walk 1km to catch the #86 bus along the main road - this is wrong!
FYI / Tips
- Hanoi's Old Quarter is the backpacker area like Bangkok's Khaosan Road. The tourist establishments (hotels, restos, travel/tour agencies, cafes) are interspersed with local traditional businesses
- Grab XeOm or moto taxis are abundant
- street culture is alive and kicking at the Old Quarter. Family-owned and managed shophouses who have been doing their trade for generations are still around. Old Quarter hasn't been touched by shopping malls yet.
- best place to exchange foreign currency is with the jewelry/gold shops (see list on map). Worst place are the tour shops/hotels.
- BEWARE of resto tourist traps. Usually, they sell only one meal like Bun Cha. No menu, no prices. They are crafty in herding unsuspecting tourists (you will notice no local eats there) and serve them the Bun Cha without asking them (because it's the only thing they sell). You'll just be jolted when you receive the bill. I was had for VND 90k!
Things to do, Places to go in Hanoi
- Old Quarter - this is old Hanoi where family-owned business flourished with its specialty trade. The streets are narrow and busy. Nowadays, it's the center for backpackers visiting Hanoi
- lakes - Hanoi is littered with many big lakes, some of them have numerous pagodas along its bank. West Lake is the largest with an 18km circumference, ideal for joggers, hobby fishing and just finding quiet time
- Tran Quoc Pagoda - the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi lying on its peninsula by West Lake
- Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum - it's a massive marble structure housed inside an expansive park with manicured gardens
Vietnam FYI / Tips / Dos and Don'ts
- Hanoi Grapevine HCMC Update - for the latest events in Vietnam
- Vietnam establishments will not accept US dollars, unlike Cambodia. You have to use Vietnam Dong (US$1 = Vietnam Dong VND 23,255 = Php 53.20 as of Aug 1, 2016)
- Vietnamese smokers will smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. They also smoke inside hospitals with no smoking signs.
- Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
- internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
- Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
- best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
- remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
- ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
- best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
- leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
- when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
- carry only enough cash for your needs that day
- don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
- don't take pictures of military installations - you can go to jail
- refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so
Lesser-Known Vietnam Destinations
- Phu Yen Province - by the beach
- Hoa Binh Lake - locals' alternative to Halong Bay
- Ninh Binh - Trang An Grottoes, Tam Coc, Mua Caves, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Van Long Nature Reserve
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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