Everyone goes to see the water puppets in Hanoi...it's the tourist thing to do. To be fair the performance is entertaining and I enjoyed the musical accompaniment using traditional instruments. Two memories I'll take from the show......the horrible smell of the fans they provide to keep you cool...and the huge rat we saw walking along the edge of the pool where they perform the puppet show.
If you wish to see something more cultural then as recommended by others, watch the water puppet show. If a cruise in Halong Bay is part of the reason for going to Hanoi, I suggest that you buy your show tickets before the cruise (or at least 2 days before) in order to get a good, reserved seat. Tickets sell out fast since both hotels and guides buy them for their guests. One could easily buy them at the theater's box office, just state the date and time you desire. I watched the 6:30 PM show as I arrived back from Halong at about 4:30 PM so I had enough time to freshen up at the hotel and walk to the theater.
I recommend you get a seat near the "stage" (price 60,000 dong) especially if you wish to take photo/video (extra 15,000 dong for photo or 60,000 dong for video).
Water Puppetry is a thousand year old Vietnamese tradition which was begun in the Red River Delta, possibly by rice farmers. The show began with a musical prelude by the orchestra, which sits to one side of the water stage. The puppet show itself told Vietnamese legends, the one I recognised was the Legend of the Returned Sword. It also depicted every day life, such as 'Rearing Ducks and Catching Foxes', 'Children Playing in Water', and 'Harvest Festival'. Dances performed by the puppets included the 'Dragon Dance', 'Lion dance', 'Phoenix Dance' and 'Fairy Dance'. Some of these were accompanied by fire works.
We really enjoyed the performance and would have gone again if we could have got better seats than the ones we had first time around...they weren't bad for grown-ups...but our 3 year old had to sit on our lap to see clearly. All the better seats were sold out though for the rest of our stay...so do book early if you're a short person!
Tickets cost us 60,000 dong plus 15,000 for a camera pass. All in all a very cheap and enjoyable night out.
Great for kids and visually quite appealing. The storyline I found to be quite weak - not much more than a few simple tales about life in the countryside. Unique for its medium - puppets in water. Obvious influence from Chinese opera and Chinese shadow puppets, so if you have seen those performances before don't expect too much. I would do it over again - certainly if I had children; maybe or maybe not if I didn't have children with me.
Apart from Thang Long wps, you have another option: National WPS theater. It located in 361 Truong Chinh, Dong Da district, Hanoi.
Advantage: the show at 17'00 is awesome, very interesting. It combines installation art with water puppetry art to present daily life of Vnamese farmers
Ticket is often available thus dont have to book in advance.
Disadvantage: location which is far away from city centre. Taxi cost about 70.000 d from Hoan Kiem Lake.
When in Hanoi, you must not miss the enchanting water puppet performance. Held nightly, the most convenient theater to visit would be the one just north of Ho Hoan Kiem. The performance starts at 5pm but make sure you make your ticket bookings earlier as some tour agents book the entire theater at times. The show is entirely in Vietnamese though.
I loved this show and have now seen it twice and it was just as lovely the second time around.
It is a short show (about an hour) and stories are told via the puppets on/in water.
Well worth a visit. Do book as the theatre is only small and it fills up quickly. Don't worry about getting a front row seat though as you can lose some of the magic being too close to the stage - looking down is better than trying to look up.
I especially loved watching the musicians on my second trip.
You may have to pay to take photos so be aware if someone approaches you to tell you not to take photo's without permission.
Today started out, as I mentioned yesterday, with water puppets!! Apparently, this is a traditional northern Vietnamese art form that's been around for centuries, highlighting peasant themes (which is probabaly why it survived communism) and some local legends (like the turtle and the sword). The puppeteers stand behind a decoratd curtain and use murky water to hide their submerged controls, moving the puppets with great skill accompanied by traditional music. The show is put on in the world's mustiest theater air conditioned by one small unit close to the stage. Luckily, we got fourth row seats so we got some relief from the heat -- the poor people in the top row must have swealtered. As it was, I could feel rivers of sweat run down my belly throughout much of the performance, especially given that I was seated between the two most overweight guys in the theater! In fact, Mike is over 300 pounds, and the little Vietnamese girl assigned the seat next to him looked less than pleased!
That being said, the performance was masterful. These guys are good, which shouldn't be surprising as they've performed around the world in venues like Lincoln Center in NYC. The jumping fish, the rice harvesting, the turtle legend were all done with great imagination. In one scene, two brightly decorated long-necked water birds, danced and rubbed and kissed and intertwined necks until, voila!, out popped an egg. Yes, there was a sex scene!! Avian waterpuppet porn! Eventually the egg hatched to become a small brightly colored bird, evoking applause from the crowd. It was very cool, in a puppet sort of way!
Beware: the water puppets are popular! The night before, we tried to buy tickets to a water puppet performance, but the theater was sold out so we left disappointed with tickets for Sunday morning (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write!).
In Hanoi we went to see the Mua Roi Nuoc or Water Puppet Theatre. The show started with the musicians playing a Vietnamese folk song with traditional instrument.
Through out the show I did not understand a word as it was in Vietnamese, therefore I couldn’t follow the story line.
From visual perspective I think it’s fantastic. The puppets are very colourful. I found the puppeteers very skilful and clever of how they are able to move the puppets in different and accurate way.
I think water puppet is a lot harder to operate compare to land puppet. In the Water Puppet Show there are many complex moves. Imagine trying to control and manipulate the puppets of using a long pole against resistance of the water. Also the movements have to be in harmony with the music. The complex movements from Water Puppet show, the scene of the frog, boy fishing, King Le Loi Legend of the Restored Sword. These are my favourite scenes
Even though we didn’t understand a word we enjoyed the show because it was different and I respect the puppeteer’s skill. Where else can you see puppets show performs on water. They say if you haven’t seen Water Puppet Theatre you haven’t come to Vietnam.
Watch my Thang Long Water Puppets Theatre video
The traditional art of water puppetry is unique to Vietnam, and the Thang Long troupe in Hanoi stages excellent performances nightly. Water Puppetry in Vietnam dates back at least a millenium, and performances depict typical scenes of life for rural Vietnamese. Traditional Vietnamese music is played to accompany the performance. The puppeteers manipulate the water puppets from behind a screen, and the puppets move around atop a pool of water (hence the name water puppets). Despite all the dialogue being in Vietnamese, an English program helps you to follow the many short storylines.
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