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Thang Long Water Puppets

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Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is the place to go to experience a traditional Vietnamese water puppet performance.

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The theatre itself is not traditional—shows used to be performed in rice paddies—and a few bells and whistles have been added these days, but otherwise the hour-long show is the real deal, with live traditional music thrown in as well.

A little piece of Vietnamese arts history. Photo taken in or around Thang Long Water Puppets, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

A little piece of Vietnamese arts history. Photo: Samantha Brown

Water puppetry in Vietnam is documented as far back as the establishment of Thang Long (Hanoi) as the capital of the country 1,000 years ago, although it may have existed even before this. After 1010, legend has it that the country went through a stable period, with no wars, and handicrafts were able to flourish. At the same time, festivals and ceremonies became popular, providing an opportunity for artists to perform puppet shows both on land and water.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, on the northeastern bank of Hoan Kiem Lake, is certainly not 1,000 years old, nor reminiscent of the traditional environment in which water puppet shows would have taken place, but if you want to see this art form it’s easy accessible, reasonably priced and an authentic performance.

Special effects have improved in recent years. Photo taken in or around Thang Long Water Puppets, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Special effects have improved in recent years. Photo: Samantha Brown

The theatre is more comfortable than we remember from the first visit we made a decade ago; we’re sure than in those days the seats were wooden benches, prone to sending your bum to sleep. Now the hall boasts rows of standard theatre-style, green-cushioned chairs, with a "pond" at the front instead of a stage.

The show starts with a short musical composition on traditional instruments, played by the small orchestra to the side of the pond; it’s introduced in Vietnamese and English and then the puppet performances begin with a prelude by clown Teu, a funny looking puppet with sprouting hair. Then things really come to life, with a band of drummers taking to the ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
Shows are held daily 15:30 to 21:15 with an extra show Sunday morning.

Thang Long Water Puppets
57B Dinh Tien Hoang St (near Hoan Kiem Lake), Hanoi
Ticketing daily 08:30-21:15
T: (04) 3824 9494, (04) 3825 5450 F: (04) 3824 5117;
Admission: 100,000 dong adults, 60,000 dong children. Seats are pre-allocated.

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