You can’t visit Hanoi in Vietnam without heading to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. It’s perfect for those culture buffs looking to experience the ‘real Vietnam’, those wanting to see something truly unique or those just keen to have a great time!
The first question that might be on your mind is what exactly makes this puppet show so fantastic compared to other more modern styles of puppet theatres. Well, for one the entire spectacle takes place on the surface of shimmering water using an intricate network of bamboo rods, which is unlike any other type of puppetry in existence. Eight masterful puppeteers will show off their skills, performing a show that can trace its cultural heritage roots back to the Red River Delta. In ancient times, shows like this would be performed for tired rice farmers standing in the waist-deep water as they harvest their crops.
Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, Vietnam
And this traditional show is far more elaborate than you may think. Each show performs a series of short sketches that highlight different aspects of North Vietnamese rural life, as well as famous historical myths and legends. A particular favorite worth catching is that of the legend of the nearby Hoan Kiem Lake, or translated as the ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’. This short performance tells the story of an uprising hero who was given a magical sword to defeat the Ming Dynasty of China.
Each show is accompanied by local musicians and singers using traditional and some very unorthodox instruments like a single string harp. They occasionally interact with the audience and puppets, whom humorously react in kind to their encouragement. The stories themselves are in Vietnamese but you can pick up an audio guide at the ticket office if you want to follow along in your own language (although some have said that it does take you out of the experience and not necessary).
If you want to check out the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre yourself, then it is best to bundle it with a visit to the nearby Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple for an afternoon. Those are two of Hanoi’s top tourist attractions, which set the reflect some of the theatre’s culture.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is open 365 days a year with five one hour shows a day. The shows are in the afternoon at 3 PM, 4:10 PM, 5:20 PM, 6:30 PM & 8:00 PM, and will involve around 17 different performances. The cost of a ticket is VND 100,000 to 200,000, which is around $5 USD to $10 USD. You can book online or through your mobile phone.
Watch out, however, as the playhouse only has a capacity of 300 seats. Due to the nature of the shows and how small the puppets are, it’s best to try and get as close to the stage as possible. Also, keep in mind that the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre may be sold completely out by the day of so book your tickets early if you’re only in town for a few days.
There may be other water puppet shows performing in Hanoi or around the world, but after visiting the original Thang Long Water Puttet Theatre, you won’t accept any substitutes!
Address: 57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Phone: +84 24 3824 9494
Season: Year Round