I found the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre without any problems and got a ticket for the 15.15 show, $3, which included a cassette of the show's music. I went back to my room and had a shower and changed clothes before I left to see the water puppets. My seat was on the front row, so I was able to take good photos. I didn't know what to expect from the show, but it was fantastic. I laughed out loud many times and truly enjoyed it very much. The show consisted of 17 short stories accompanied by Vietnamese music, which was not only suitable for the show, but also magical. The orchestra played some instruments, which I have never seen before. I felt that the show was over too soon and could have watched the puppets for another 75 minutes.
Dress Code: Just wear casual clothes and you'll be ok.
Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered and the shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water.
The puppets "act" out various Vietnamese folklores and folk tales that have been passed down the generations with stories such as harvesting, fishing and of festivals. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides background music accompaniment. It's a fantastic show which you simply have to come and witness as there's nothing like it. I was lucky enough to get front row seats and so really enjoyed it, except that you can get wet sitting so close to the pool!
Performances start at 15:30, 17:00, 18:30, 20:00 & 21:15 and tickets cost either 40,000 VND or 60,000 VND, depending on where you sit. You can book these at the theatre's booking office. You can even buy the puppets from some nearby shops, but make sure you haggle the price down!
Water Puppet Theatre is a traditional Vietnamese art. During the rainy seasons long ago, people created this kind of theater. It is played in the water! Puppets are moved with long wooden sticks and play scenes from rural Vietnam as well as the most common legends - for instance the one about Hoan Kiem Lake. Nowadays, this sort of theater is about to die out, were it not for Hanoi's Water Puppet Theatre and a few other companies which is known to be one of the most professional groups. It is very popular with tourists and nearly every visitor of Hanoi goes there. Unfortunately, in the countryside the tradition is not as vital anymore and it's hard to find players.
Hanoi's theatre is generally very crowded. Therefore, each day four presentations are staged. In order to see best, choose a seat in the front rows. From behind it sometimes may be hard to see anything at all as nearly everybody takes pictures and you might have to watch the show through erected arms with videocameras and the like!
Here's a list of the contents of a show:
1. Raising the festival flag
2. The Narrator
3. Dragon Dance
4. On a Buffalo with a Flute
6. Catching Frogs
7. Rearing Ducks and catching Foxes
9. Harvest Festival
10. Lion Dance
11. Phoenix Dance
12. Legend of the Restored Sword
13. Children playing in the Water
14. Boat Racing
15. Unicorns playing with a Ball
16. Fairy Dance
17. Dance of the four holy Animals (Unicorn, Dragon, Tortoise, Phoenix)
Dress Code: none
We skipped this, none of my friends wanted to go and even made fun of me for wanting to check it out. I figured it wouldn't take up too much of our time and would be a nice way to immerse ourselves in typical Vietnamese culture, but it was a no go.
There were some other tourists who we travelled to Halong Bay with who poked fun at it, having gone themselves. This did little to help my cause. hehe So sorry, I have nothing to contribute about the water puppet theatre. Maybe next time!
I did, however, take a picture of the water puppets being sold in the Temple of Literature.
If you want to gain only one piece of cultural background in Vietnam, go see the water puppets. Water puppetry developed over a thousand years ago in the Red River Delta. Puppeteers use bamboo poles to extend their puppets from behind the proscenium and up through the surface of a small pond that forms the stage. The stories are about daily life in the countryside and ancient tales such as the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Shows are at 5:15, 6:30, and 8pm daily. First class seats cost 40,000d which allows you to sit within the first five rows and gets you a free CD of the music. The other seats are 20,000d.Get there early though as tours often make this a stop and they already have tickets.
Try to get seats as close to the stage as possible. I sat in the front row and had an excellent view and great possibilities to take photos as well. I got a few splashes of water on my clothes during the show, but who cares.
Of the 17 short shows I'd like to mention here:
The Dragon Dance which was great fun
Boat racing, another truly funny one
Legend of the Restored Sword, an interesting legend
Harvest festival which was about a native boy returning home
Unicorns playing with ball
They all were really great so it is difficult to choose just one. You will have to go and see it!
Vietnamese water puppets show is one of its kind. It is a "must do" in Hanoi. It's musical and fun to watch eventhough you do not understand what the song is all about as it is done in Vietnamese which brings out the authenticity of it.
There will be a stage with a pool of water where the handmade wooden puppets, coated with waterproof paint, dance with the music and song serenaded by a group of musicians at the left hand side of the stage. The stories and dances depict the cultures and history of Vietnam. The movements and gestures protrayed by the puppets in the water look lively and funny. There are several preludes in the programme. Each prelude has its distinctiveness. Believe me, even you don't get what the song is all about, somehow, the figurines will give you a sense of the storyline. Enjoy!
Note : Book tickets early as weekends are usually packed.
Dress Code: Go as you are. Be comfortable.
Water puppetry is a famous form of entertainment of North Vietnam and originated from farmers starting their own form of entertainment during the monsoon seasons where flooding is common.
The puppets are manipulated with strings and rods submerged under a pool of water. Accompanying singers and musicians add to the colour of the live play.
Dress Code: None at point of visit
The last puppet show starts at 8pm and ticket has to be purchased by 7.30pm.
If you wish to take pics, buy the 1st class ticket for 40,000 VND. The gift includes a CD of the tunes played during the show.
Take the fan as a souvenier and a broucher after you climb the steps to the theater. It will tell you every scence of the show.
The show is in Vietnamese so you will have to just see the action of the puppet and listen to the singing and musicians that are performing live on the extreme left of the stage.
I thought it would be quite boring to listen to people singing in a foreign language and see just some puppets moves.
But when I was there, it was so entertaining and well worth the 40,000 VND that I have paid (2nd row seats).
Dress Code: causal
Now, if you're thinking that a Sesame Street Veteran like yourself can afford to give this a miss, you're likely to kick yourself in the butt. Yes pal, this ain't no Jim-Henson esque puppetry stuff on telly. Nope, it's pure animated viagra on water. And best of all, it's accompanied by a live soundtrack.
Listen to how a "Dan Bau" ( string instrument ) is plucked for the mew of a cat or how a "Sao" ( wind instrument ) is blown to imitate the cries of a bird. Quite fascinating really.
As for puppeteers, they don't breathe underwater in snorkels but stand cleverly behind a faux temple.For your entertainment sake, those chaps stand waist deep in cold, air-conditioned water , giving life to the puppets.
So are you game? Click here for more pictures.
1)Go for the first class tickets. You'll get a better view. The cost is 40,000D for seats at the front+CD recording of music played.
2)Phan Thai hotel does the booking free for you!
3)Three shows a day at 5.15 pm, 6.30 pm and 8 pm Counter closes at 6.45 pm to 7.30 pm
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