See a Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in Hanoi

Prior to having a travel blog or traveling to Vietnam, when the term ‘puppet show’ was mentioned, it would usually bring back memories of the tiny finger puppets I made in my childhood using permanent markers. Funny faces were painted on the pads of my ten digits and then an impromptu show was performed for my imaginary friends. I was the cast and the only one in attendance, but it surely was a fabulous show. 

The Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in Hanoi was just a wee bit different.

Water puppetry is a traditional Vietnamese art form that dates back several centuries and is performed in a shallow pool of water. The wooden puppets are manually controlled behind a screen by master puppeteers who splash them through the stage with precision and skill.
Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, Vietnam

Move over finger puppets. “Hello” water puppets.

Last night we had taken an incredible street food tour where we snacked on Vietnamese worm cakes (yes, made with real live, wiggly worms) and tonight it would be all about watching wood figures slosh through water.

Strange. And I like it.

In the Hoan Kiem lake area of Hanoi, close to our hotel, the Lotus Water Puppet Theater has a performance every night of the week. We chose a random weekday evening and headed out for an evening filled with unique entertainment. Any cyclo (Vietnamese bicycle) could have taken us there for a couple of bucks, but we chose to walk. Mostly, because the nightlife around the lake is just as entertaining as the show was bound to be. 

Between the newly married couples getting their professional wedding photos, the street vendors selling bric-a-brac and the brilliant red Hoan Kiem bridge, we barely noticed the twenty minute stroll.
Hoan Kiem Lake Bridge in Hanoi Vietnam

We arrived at Lotus a little early, because we had neglected to purchase our tickets in advance, which is definitely not recommended as the shows tend to sell out.

Luckily, for a mere five bucks we got two seats in the front row of the balcony.

The musicians were the first to enter the program three lining each side of the stage.  They began to play powerful music using folk instruments, such as drums, horns, cymbals and wooden bells. Their rhythmic melody was a show itself.
Water Puppet Show at Lotus in Hanoi, Vietnam Water Puppet Show at Lotus in Hanoi, Vietnam

For the next hour we witnessed dragons shooting sparklers out of their mouths, dancing turtles, colorful swimming birds, men riding ox and speedy fish, all telling a special story.

These tales were of Vietnamese folklore, culture, farming and historical legends.

Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, Vietnam

Even though the show was not in English and it was a bit difficult to follow every storyline, I couldn’t help but smile through the entire performance. It was unusual and entertaining, with a little piece of Vietnamese tradition thrown in.

A good way to spend 50 minutes and 5 bucks in Hanoi.

Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, Vietnam

After a quick 50 minutes, the show came to an end and the puppet masters took a well-deserved bow.  

Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, Vietnam

We exited the theater and hailed a Cyclo right outside the front doors. The driver would be taking us on a ride through the old quarter where we would be hunting for a replica of these wooden puppets that are found in many stores. I wanted to take a little piece of tradition home with me.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .


The Tha Long Puppet Show in Hanoi is actually more popular amongst the tourists than Lotus, but it is also much larger. You will be in for a treat either company you  choose, but remember to purchase your tickets beforehand just to be safe. Though it is not necessary to have a tour guide for this excursion, if you choose you can book the Water Puppet & Buffet Dinner tour through Viator.

Lotus Water Puppet | 16 le Thai to St (79 Hang Trong St), Hanoi, Vietnam  | Website | CalendarMap
Tha Long Puppet Show | 57B Dinh Tien Hoang, Hanoi, Vietnam | Website | Calendar | Map


Eat Worm Cakes (& Other Street Food) in Hanoi

Take a Junk Boat Through Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay

Other Things to do in Hanoi

2017-03-08T16:58:02+00:00 August 14th, 2015|Categories: Asia, QUIRKY, TRAVEL, Vietnam|Tags: |


  1. Martin August 19, 2015 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Every culture is different and has a lot to offer. I’m amazed that so many countries have so many things to offer. I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed this experience!

  2. Best Hotel in Agra October 29, 2015 at 3:27 am - Reply

    Coming to Vietnam armed with eagerness to discover unique traditional customs, you would not want to miss culturally famous water puppetry – Vietnamese’s singular variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition. Literally, water puppetry (“múa rối nước” in Vietnamese) means “puppets that dance on water” and is an ancient tradition which has origin from as far as the 11th century CE in the villages of the Red River Delta area of Northern Vietnam . As believed that every aspects of life are controlled by spirits, the Vietnamese creatively invent water puppetry as a form of entertainment so as to satisfy these sprits using the natural medium that nature has to offer with the ponds and flooded rice paddies after harvest being the stage for those impromptu performances.

    For those who haven’t been familiar with water puppetry, chance is, the first encounter with the special kind of performance art can be extremely amusing. As expected, the show would take place in a waist-deep about pool about four square meters being the stage where the wooden and lacquered puppets are controlled through the large supporting rods and string mechanism hidden beneath the water by up to eight puppeteers who normally hid behind a screen. Captivatingly accompanying the screen is Chèo (a traditional form of Vietnamese opera) played by the orchestra with instrumentation includes vocals, drums, wooden bells, cymbals, horns, mono chord, gongs and bamboo flute. Interactions between the musicians and the puppets are also of importance: a yell would be a warning of danger or a word of encouragement would be a cheerful backup for the puppets.
    Thang Long Puppetry Theater in Hanoi has become internationally popular recently, having performances on regular basis. With the easily accessible location on 57B Dinh Tien Hoang just beside Hoan Kiem Lake at the city center, the theater attracts flows of eager visitors, mostly foreigners, with their daily performances. The theatre offer an appealing performance-on-demand service, which makes water puppetry in Hanoi always available for those who want to experience a taste of one of Vietnam’s unique tradition.

  3. Jason November 20, 2016 at 10:07 am - Reply

    “Please note, first place should go to Vietnam will be Phua Quóc Island. Because this is the most beautyful island, you will discover many interesting things, the price of life is at a low level, the resort is also cheaper than other places. Access to Traveloka to book in advance, the price will be cheaper for tourists

Leave A Comment