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
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.
Locally known as Mua Roi Nuoc, I wasn't sure whether to put this Water Puppet Theatre tip under Must See or Off The Beaten Path... it's not everyone's idea of a good time, I don't think, but I thought it was interesting because you get to hear a bit of the Vietnamese traditional instruments and singing from the live musicians who play throughout the show.
And it had its moments, there are different stories, mostly enacting historical events or slice of Vietnamese rural life.. farmers in their fields... triumphant revolutionary warriors fighting colonialists.. and such like.
I'd say go just to keep a traditional art form alive, there are not many of these guys left and it'd be a shame to just let it wither away...
If you are spending time in Ha Noi..DO NOT miss this AMAZING performance at the Water Puppet Theater. You will witness a series of “ancient” short stories and legends presented through the use of traditional music, song, and characters. The stage is actually a large container of water where the characters (carved wooden puppets} “act” out the story. Most of the stories are whimsical and fun and the music is live, performed by a group of musicians that share a side stage adjacent to the water stage.
The first photo shows the "cast" reenacting the "Legend of the Restored Sword" the story of Hoan Kiem Lake and the tortoise.
The second photo shows you the band that plays music and accompanying vocals for most of the "sets"..
The third photo shows you some examples of water puppets that in fact you can purchase in many different shops around Ha Noi...this picture is actually take at the Temple of Literature.
Water puppetry has been practiced here in Vietnam for many hundreds of years; some scholars think upwards of a thousand. Initially this traditional entertainment was started as a celebration of the end of the rice harvest and has been adapted over time to provide “entertainment” for people during special events, gatherings and special ceremonies.
The puppeteers are situated behind a screen and stand in waist deep water controlling the puppets with rods that mostly are under the water. The Puppets are made from wood and lacquered and painted to protect them from water damage.
This theater in Ha Noi takes it name from one of the original names of Ha Noi itself, in about the 11th Century Ly Tai To renamed what is today known as Ha Noi , Thang Long, which means “ascending dragon”. The theater is modern and holds a few hundred people.
The acoustics are pretty good in the theater, the sight lines though could be better, unless you have seats close to the front…which you can reserve if you can purchase your tickets early enough.
The theater is located just slightly to the east and north of Hoan Kiem Lake at 57b Dinh Tien Hoang Street…The theater offers performances throughout the day and into the evening and each performance lasts about an hour.
We paid 60 000 Dong, about the equivalent of $ 3.00 USA. Although I don’t think it’s enforced, there’s a requirement to pay a premium to video or photograph the performance. The premium is another 12 000 Dong…about a dollar.
Purchasing tickets was one of the first things that we set out to do upon arrival in Ha Noi.
We scooped up tickets during our initial walkabout in Ha Noi. It’s such a popular “thing to do” tickets sell out quickly days in advance of performances. If you want to catch this show and you’re visiting during “high season” I would ask my hotel to book tickets for you at the same time you are making your hotel reservation.
Water Puppet show is recommended once you are in Hanoi.
40.000vnd / first class ticket ( mean your row is near the stage )
Presents of the Theatre used to be a CD of traditional music used in the show ( only for 1st class row ). But now change and I'm not sure what is that. :(
Show starts at 16.00, 17.15, 16.30, 20.00 & 21.15 and takes 45 min.
Sunday addtional performance at 9.00
Thang Long Water Puppet show was excellent.
Even though you may not understand any Vietnamese language, you will still be able to see those puppets in action.
There are 17 series of scenes telling some stories about Vietnamese life represented by carved and painted wooden puppets held on sticks by people standing in a pool of water hidden behind the screen.
Purchase the 1st Class for 40,000 VND and you get to sit at the front rows seats and take lots of pictures and you will be given free CD with songs from the performances.
The 2nd Class ticket cost 20,000 VND.
The show time are 1715, 1630 and 2000.
The art of water puppetry is unique to the areas surrounding the Red River (Song Hong) and not to be missed when you are in Hanoi. It used to be pratised by rice farmers in flooded paddy fields for centuries, and is handed down from generation to generation. Basically, this involves wooden puppets manipulated by bamboo wooden sticks hidden beneath the water which depict stories of Vietnamese folk tales and daily life. This exciting performance also comes with special effects such as smoke and mini-fireworks, plus traditional music played by old folks. The most famous water puppet show in Hanoi is located at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre located at the north-east end of Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of Restored Sword) and the daily showtimes are 5.15 pm, 6.30 pm and 8 pm. The counter closes at 6.45 pm to 7.30 pm. First class seat cost 40,000 VND (about US$2.5) and second class seat cost 20,000 VND (because the seats are so cheap, they can be fully booked fairly quickly so you need to buy them in advance). I wanted to come here to watch the water puppet show, but in the end do not need because the Vietnamese host of my meeting brought the delegates to the Museum of Ethnology and watch the water puppet show from there instead. More photos of the water puppet show are at the travelogue section of this VT page.
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).
You absolutely must go to a Water Puppet Show (mua roi nuoc) when you are in Hanoi…especially if you have children or are a child at heart (like me). They are absolutely charming and it’s a uniquely Vietnamese art form that you really won’t find anywhere else in the world.
The stage is a small pool and the puppeteers hide behind a screen…so the brightly colored puppets come in and out of the water in amazing ways. The live music is wonderful and here is quite a cast of puppets from men fishing, to dancing women, a wide variety of animals …and of course fireworks and some modern stage effects
The hour show is done entirely in Vietnamese with accompanied by traditional Vietnamese sting instruments. It consists of short skits of traditional Vietnamese stories (that if you’ve been in Vietnam for awhile you will know). But you won’t need to know the stories or language to be totally enthralled.
We attended the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, which is located directly across the Dinh Tien Hang Street…from the beautiful arched red-lacquered Hun Bridge in the Old Quarter (a short walk from our Hotel)
Front row seats are $3 AND the admission price includes a program, a cassette tape of the music and a fan!!!!
It was such a wonderful show that when I left I was “walking on water” ! ;)
It is a unique puppet show that used wooden puppet to depict the daily countryside life and the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake using water as a stage. It tells a history and yet it is entertaining. You will be given a fan to cool yourself in case the sight of the water could not do the job :P. It cost about 20000VND(2nd class) and 40000VND(1st class). As it is considered cheap in the eyes of most tourists, sometimes you cant even get the 1st class seats. You have to book early.
This is the best water puppet shows in Vietnam. I agree as I show the other one at the History Museum in HCMC (Saigon).
The seats are not well designed - if someone large sits in front of you, you will have to stretch your neck. Of course, you can choose to stand at the aisle like me to get your photos and miss most of the show.
It is a series of short stories covering Vietnamese farming life and folk tales.
A must see. There are several shows a day and there is a first class and second class seating depending on your budget.
The water puppet performance was crowded and hot but charming, amusing and good fun. The musicians introduced the show and then there were about 20 vignettes of myths and village life, sometimes quite spectacular like the fire breathing dragons. There was lots of humour and adults and children alike enjoyed the performance.
It would have been interesting, though it would have spoilt the magic, to see backstage and how they achieved some of the effects.
I would certainly recommendthe better seats as they are much closer to the action.
When in Hanoi, my husband and I visited the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. This is a wonderful show to go to whether you are 3 years old or 33 years old. The performance is done in Vietnamese, but despite that its easy to understand what is going on. The puppets are brilliant and to think that people stand in knee deep water to operate these things makes you appreciate the show even more. The Vietnamese orchestra that accompanies the theater performance are wonderful. Also how could you not love a puppet show whose emcee has pigtails, a pot belly, and wears a loin cloth.
Yup, this is a bit of a cheesy tourist attraction but I thought it was quite fun.
The art of water puppetry appeared in the Ly dynasty (1010-1225).
It was developed in lake and pond-rich areas in the Red River Delta. The surface of water serves as the stage while spectators sit at the edge of water.
The puppeteers both male and female stand waist-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets making them move about and even dance on the surface of the water.
The water serves not only to hide the puppeteers and strings of the puppets but also to create a trembling stage full of reflection, while providing natural amplification for singing puppeteers accompanied by percussion music and fire crackers.
Every puppet is a piece of real folk sculpture. It is made of wood, painted with water-proof lacquer. The prominent character is buffoon Teu with a plump body and a humorous smile. When the curtain is raised, the merry, arch Teu enters onto the stage and introduces the play.
A considerable repertoire of traditional water puppet plays still get a big hand from the audience. They include the Teu Dance, Buffalo Fighting, Duck Tender Chasing Fox and Chess Playing.
It may be cheesy but I thoroughly enjoyed it!
One of the major tourists attractions in Hanoi, as in other major cities around Vietnam, is the Water Puppet show. The theatre in Hanoi is conveniently located in the Old Quarter near the Hoan Kiem Lake. The cheap seats sell out fast, but the expensive seats are completely affordable at a mere 40 VND. If you have your heart set on the cheap seats buy your tickets in advance (think early the day of). There isn’t a bad seat in the house, but you may get splashed slightly if you’re sitting in the front. Seeing the water puppets is a delight and the music is live. The puppeteers manipulate their puppets while standing in knee-high water complete with pyrotechnics. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy this show and it’s a great insight into Vietnamese arts and culture.