It’s a unique fusion of art, tradition, and storytelling, giving you an authentic slice of Vietnam’s rural charm right in the busy Hanoi.
A peek into the past: Understanding Vietnamese Water Puppetry
The art form we know today as Vietnam water puppetry, or ‘Múa rối nước,’ has been casting its magical spell over audiences for more than a millennium.
Originally conceived in the rice paddies of the Red River Delta region, this performance style was to entertain villagers during the annual monsoon floods.
As harvests concluded and fields lay submerged, artists would wade into the water and create mesmerizing narratives using puppets that danced and glided on the water’s surface.
This was a way not just to keep the community entertained, but also to keep mischievous spirits at bay.
Fast forward to the present day, and you can witness this exquisite form of entertainment, now listed as Vietnam’s intangible cultural heritage, at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Trust me; the captivating performances will leave you spellbound!
How does Vietnamese Water Puppetry work?
Firstly, it’s worth acknowledging the incredible amount of skill and dedication that goes into each performance of Múa rối nước.
Not only do the puppeteers have to control the puppet’s movements from behind a screen, but they also do so while standing in waist-deep water!
This method originated from the olden days when shows were performed in flooded rice fields, keeping the tradition alive today.
And it’s not just about manipulating the puppets; each puppeteer also needs to be a good swimmer with a lot of strength and endurance.
It’s no easy task controlling the large bamboo rods and puppets, which can weigh up to 15 kilograms!
The puppets themselves are beautiful pieces of art crafted from fig wood, which is known for its water resistance and lightweight properties.
These are then hand-painted with vibrant, often waterproof, lacquer paint. This helps protect the puppets from water damage while making them look lively and colorful.
How to get to Thang Long water puppet theater?
Strategically nestled in front of the serene Hoan Kiem Lake, right next to the buzzing Hanoi Old Quarter, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is easily accessible. Combining a stroll around the lake with a visit to the theater makes for an unforgettable afternoon.
If you’re staying within the area, a brisk walk, aided by Google Maps, should get you there. If you’re farther away, hop on a taxi or a motorbike taxi (don’t forget to experience this fun and quintessentially Vietnamese mode of transport). Apps like Grab and Gojek make it super convenient to book a ride.
Prefer public transport? There are buses that drop you at Dinh Tien Hoang Street, just a short walk away from the theater.
Thang Long water puppet show times
Here’s a hot tip: the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre shows start at 3:00 pm, 04:10 pm, 05:20 pm, 06:30 pm, and 08:00 pm. However, showtimes occasionally change, so it’s wise to check their official website beforehand.
How much time to spend at Thang Long water puppet?
Each show typically lasts for about an hour.
I recommend allotting some time post-show to sit back at one of the quaint cafes nearby, sipping on a cup of delicious Vietnamese coffee (or an iced drink, depending on the weather), or take a stroll along the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake.
Tips for visiting the Thang Long water puppet
Booking Tickets Early
Now, here’s an important tip. These shows are popular, and tickets can sell out pretty fast.
To ensure you don’t miss out, grab your tickets early. You can either book tickets online or visit the kiosks before Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
I recommend securing your tickets at least 1 hour before the show starts.
Picking the Perfect Seat
When choosing your seat, consider that the puppets are relatively small, so being closer to the stage can enhance your viewing experience.
However, if you’re too close to the water stage, there’s a chance you might get splashed occasionally – an adventure in its own right! So choose according to your comfort level.
Behind the scenes: What to expect at the show
I recently visited the Thang Long water puppet show, and the experience was amazing.
From behind a screen, puppeteers brought forth several puppet characters, their vibrant colors captivating under the spotlights.
Using bamboo rods submerged under the water’s surface, the puppeteers moved their characters with such finesse that the puppets appeared to dance effortlessly on the water. It was an incredible sight to see!
But the visual spectacle was just one part of the magic. As the puppets began their dance, the soft strains of traditional Vietnamese music filled the theater, washing over us like a comforting wave.
The melodic symphony of drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes, and monochords added an auditory depth to the performance.
Vietnamese opera singers narrated these enchanting tales using a form of opera known as Cheo. Their warm and melodious voices flowed through the theater, guiding us through the puppetry performance and breathing life into the stories.
My favorite part of the show was the legend of the nearby Hoan Kiem Lake. The short performance told the story of a Vietnamese king who received a magical sword from a turtle, aiding him in repelling the Chinese army. Such an epic tale!
Food and Drinks Around Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Before or after the show, you should take some time to explore the culinary wonders around the theatre.
Hanoi, particularly the Old Quarter, is well-known for its street food. From the hearty Phở, the world-renowned Vietnamese noodle soup, to Bánh mì, a mouth-watering baguette sandwich, your culinary options are plentiful.
And don’t forget to try some local drinks. Whether it’s a cool, sweet cup of chè, a variety of Vietnamese sweet beverages, or a hot, aromatic cup of Vietnamese coffee, there’s something for every palate.
Other cultural experiences near Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Not far from the theatre, you’ll find a host of other cultural experiences.
You can visit Hoan Kiem Lake and learn more about the legend of the Restored Sword, which you’ll see in one of the puppet shows.
There’s also the Ngoc Son Temple, a beautiful 18th-century pagoda located in the center of the lake, accessible by an ornate wooden bridge.
In the Old Quarter, you can wander through the labyrinth of ancient streets, each named after the trade traditionally practiced there, such as Silk Street or Silver Street.
This area is also home to the Hanoi Weekend Night Market, a lively outdoor market where you can buy everything from delicious street food to handmade crafts.
Can you visit the Thang Long water puppet without a tour?
Absolutely! You can easily make your own way to the theater by taxi or motorbike, using Google Maps for navigation, and buy tickets directly at the venue.
How do Vietnamese water puppets work?
Puppeteers control the puppets using large bamboo rods while standing in waist-deep water behind a screen. This creates the illusion of puppets dancing and moving over the water. Each puppet is crafted from wood and coated in colorful lacquer, bringing each character a burst of vibrant life.
Where is Thang Long Water puppet theater?
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is in front of the ancient Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi and next to the famous Hanoi Old Quater. You can combine sightseeing at Hoan Kiem Lake with watching water puppet shows at the theater.
Is Thang Long water puppet show worth watching?
Yes, absolutely! Visiting the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is like opening a portal to Vietnam’s rich cultural tapestry. The performances are miniature plays, a series of vignettes that bring traditional Vietnamese folklore and legends to life. Love stories, epic battles, glimpses of rural life – it’s all there, narrated through meticulously crafted puppets in a water-based spectacle.