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Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

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Originating in northern Vietnam’s Red River Delta, water puppetry (mua roi nuoc) is now firmly a proud Vietnamese tradition.

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Puppets dance on a “stage”, essentially a tank of water. The puppets are manipulated by puppeteers standing waist deep in the water hidden behind a screen. The show depicts every day pastoral scenes—riding a water buffalo, catching frogs, fishing—as well as folktales and humorous anecdotes, all set to live instruments and singing.

Water + puppets = Water puppets. Photo taken in or around Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Water + puppets = Water puppets. Photo: Cindy Fan

Though more famous as a Hanoi attraction, the Golden Water Puppet Theatre is your opportunity to see this traditional art in Ho Chi Minh City. There are two 45-minutes shows a day (17:00 and 18:30) in an air-conditioned theatre, no intermission.

The show is entirely in Vietnamese and although the show’s pamphlet has the name of each set in English, “Dragon Dance” for example, there is no explanation and foreigners most likely won’t understand the nuances of what is happening. So it’s more of a sit back and enjoy the puppets coming to life, marvelling at how the actions can seem so realistic while a team of people make it all happen from behind a curtain.

Puppeteers unmasked. Photo taken in or around Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Puppeteers unmasked. Photo: Cindy Fan

Is it for everyone? It’s part of Vietnam’s cultural heritage and it’s for those who appreciate live performances and how much training it requires. We are glad we saw it (it doesn’t break the bank either), but now we don’t need to see another water puppet show any time soon. And the experience isn’t without frustration. Unfortunately we sat behind someone who spent the entire time recording the performance rather than enjoy watching it live. There were several people in the audience doing so. It does boggle the mind.

Tickets can be purchased directly at the box office or a Pham Ngu Lao travel agent or your hotel can do it for a small commission. However, we went in the tourist low-season and we had to buy our ticket more than a week in advance—it was solidly sold out! If you have limited time in Ho Chi Minh City and have your heart set on catching a show, you’ll likely need an agent or your hotel to book it in advance.



Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, District 1
Box office Mo–Su: 08:30–11:30 & 13:30–19:30
T: (028) 3930 2196, (098) 937 0873 
Admission: 100,000 VND

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Location map for Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

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