Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is one of the places you must go to when you’re in Hanoi, Vietnam. The show costs VND 60,000 (about RM 10) and it lasts about 45 minutes but it’s well worth it. It might sound like a commercialized show to catch and it probably is, but it also gives you a dose of culture.
Water puppet performances started back in the days when Hanoi had periodic floods during the monsoon season. The preamble to the show states that the farmers started this as entertainment during those times and thus, most of the themes reflect life as peasants – agriculture, fishing, and the odd folk tales thrown in.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre show can be pretty packed so I bought my tickets a day earlier so I can get good seats. Photos and videos are allowed – they use an honor system where you declare and pay to use your camera but no one bothered (which won’t be surprising considering most are backpackers) so I didn’t either.
I also met this solo traveller from Australia who told me she managed to get a room for USD 7 not far from the theatre. It comes with toothpaste and soap to boot, something I paid triple for but I can’t remember the name of the hotel for the life of me.
Anyway, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre starts with a classic orchestra playing traditional instruments at the side. These people also double as the narrator and singers during the show.
The puppets that they use ranges from huge two foot boats to small balls but it was so well choreographed that you’ll be surprised that it can be done from behind a bamboo veil.
Funny fishing puppetry
Harvest Festival. A story about a student returning after graduation with themes of filial gratitude.
Legend of the Restored Sword is a myth about King Le Loi who triumphed over the Ming invaders with a magic sword and him returning it back to a giant golden turtle.
Master of Puppets!
They manipulate the puppets from behind and this is their encore!
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is pretty interesting – you can see most of the footage here but it’s well worth a visit for the ambiance.