Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

Quintessential Vietnam experience

More on Ho Chi Minh City

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

Travelfish says:

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. : 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. : 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.

Contact details for Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

Address: 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, District 1
T: (028) 3930 2196; (098) 937 0873;  
Coordinates (for GPS): 106º41'32.44" E, 10º46'34.33" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 100,000 VND

Reviewed by

Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.

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