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Of All Things, a Water Puppet Show is the Thing to See in Hanoi

Where: Hanoi, Vietnam
July 8, 2014 at 1:53 PM | by | ()

If the thought of a puppet brings dark, creepy images to the forefront of your brain, a visit to Hanoi's infamous Thang Long Water Puppet Theater might be just the thing to set your mind free of such stereotypes.

A staple of Northern Vietnam, the traditional performance hails from the lifestyle of 11th century Red River Delta country farmers, who would use water puppets to entertain each other when the rice fields were flooded. The story told today recreates that world, giving a glimpse into the rice-farming lifestyle with scenes entitled “Fishing,” “Agricultural Work," "Catching Frogs," and "Chasing the Fox That Tries to Catch Ducks."

We know the scene titles make it sound a little dull, but the show is very upbeat and even humorous at times. The performance takes place in a waist-deep "pond" in a theater about half the size of the average American movie theater. It runs 45 minutes in length, and we really enjoyed thinking about the historical and cultural aspects of the concept, imagining how it may have played out in an actual rice field. Quite honestly, the music alone is worth the ticket price, the traditional Vietnamese songs performed and sung by a live orchestra.

There are two different ticket classes, one that costs 60,000 Dong ($2.85) and one that costs 100,000 ($4.70), the former for seats in the back and the latter for seats closer to the front. We purchased tickets to the front section thinking we'd get a better view, but in reality, the difference only ended up being ten or fifteen rows in a movie theater. If we could do it again, we'd go with the cheaper seats as the view is not significantly better from the front than it is the back. If you want to take photos of the show, you technically need to purchase a photo permit, but that rule was clearly not enforced.

Even if you have doubts about how entertained you'll be at a puppet show, we encourage you to give it a shot given the low cost and short time commitment. If you go into it with an understanding its historical roots, we think you'll walk away with a smiling appreciation for the light-hearted tradition.

[Photo: Flickr/ Flickr/Wiki]

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