Vietnam Hanoi: Watch a Water Puppet Show

Travel Period: 21 Sep – 28 Sep 2014

{PREVIOUS: Day 1 Flight and Arrival in Hanoi }

Hanoi Day 1 Night

Night Walk Near Hoan Kiem Lake

I specially chose a hotel near Hoan Kiem Lake and we headed towards the area around Hoan Kiem Lake on our first night in Hanoi. We were to reach the Thang Long Puppet Theatre, just opposite it, to enjoy the traditional Water Puppet Show.

What’s in the vicinity?

1. International Food and Restaurants

There was this huge roundabout with a prominent building housing restaurants with international food. One could find Korean, Japanese or Western Food here. Many times, we had walked past this and thought of trying the ‘City View Cafe’. However, we took a look at the menu once and didn’t find anything special for us to try. We ended up eating Thai Express in the vicinity on our last day.

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2. Souvenir Shops of Handicrafts, Silk and Local Foodstuff

Along the way to the theatre, were souvenir shops that sold nice handicrafts and local food stuffs such as lotus tea, Vietnamese coffee and Vietnamese snacks. As we were in a rush, we came back to this area on another day and bought some lotus tea and Vietnamese coffee from a shop called, “Dan Chu – Handicrafts, silk and handmade” for our family and ourselves. They were quite reasonably priced.

I had heard about “Lotus Tea” and wanted to know how it taste. We didn’t have the chance to drink it at all in Vietnam! Coming back and trying it, it tasted like ‘mooncakes’…of course…>_< Lotus Paste.

3. Night Scene of Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake lights up beautifully in the night and we had planned it in our itinerary to take a walk around it during the day.

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Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Water puppetry is a tradition in Vietnam and originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of Northern Vietnam. Puppets are made out of wood and puppeteers stand behind a screen in waist-deep water to control the puppets. This originated due to the flooding of the rice fields. Villagers started entertaining each other using some puppet play. Read more on Wikipedia

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I chose to watch the puppet show on our first night in Hanoi because we had arrived in the afternoon and could only do night events, such as Weekend Night Market or musical/ cultural shows.

Entrance Fee: 

Before arriving in Hanoi, we had dropped an email to the hotel manager to help us buy the tickets and on arrival, we paid 300,000 VND for three front seats. The back seats are slightly cheaper. The seats were marked with numbers so we just had to find our seats based on the numbers on our tickets. We were pleased to find out we were in the second row, right in the middle, with a great view.

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The show soon started with traditional Vietnamese music performed using interesting Vietnamese musical instruments. A few performers also sang together with the music and did some dialogues interaction with the puppets in water.

We didn’t understand a word of it and there were no explanations given in English, so we could only try to feel and guess at the folktales told. The music and songs were nice and coordinated very well with the actions of the puppets.

The show began with the legends of Vietnam, of Dragons forming Ha Long Bay and of the four mythical creatures(四大神兽)which we also recognised in Chinese folklore (Turtle, Phoenix, Dragon, Tiger). Vietnamese people originated from China and brought with them many Chinese traditions which we are familiar with.

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The fire works from the Dragons were impressive and had people in the audience going, “Woah!” It was a good start to the show.

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Later, the short skits tell of day-to-day living in rural Vietnam, with a fisherman and his wife doing harvesting and fishing. There were some humorous moments in between and the actions made us laugh.

The last part was about the celebration of festivals with water puppets holding candles and it got a bit dry then with some repetitive movements and music. I think I dozed off in the middle as it had been a long day of air and car travel. To keep my attention, I switched my attention to one string instrument a woman was playing. She just held one long part and tapped on a single string. Checking up the info, it is known as “Dan Bau”and is both an instrument in Vietnam and China (minority community).

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Let me share a short video of the skits we watched. The puppets felt so alive and we marvelled at the skill the puppeteers had, in controlling them for the one hour show.

Video

At the end of the water puppet show, the puppeteers came out and we greeted them with roaring applause.

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Outside the Theatre, there was this display of the water puppets they used in a few cabinets. A few water puppets were also sold as souvenirs.

I asked my 6-year-old, Dar, what was his thought on the show. He said he enjoyed the part where a ‘water snake’ came out and tried to eat the fish the fisherman was catching. He also perked up at the fire parts and legend stories with dragon and turtle. I’m glad it’s suitable for young kids to watch this show too (even though we didn’t understand the language) and have an understanding of Vietnamese music and culture.

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Overall, I felt it’s a must to watch a Water Puppet Show when you are in Vietnam for the cultural and music experience.

// More Info 

Website: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Ticket price: Front Rows: 100,000 VND/ ticket   | Back Rows: 60,000 VND / ticket

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