Water puppetry is a traditional form of Vietnamese entertainment dating back to the 11th century, when rice farmers would use the musical myth as their source of entertainment during flooding in the rice fields.
Today, tourists from across the globe can watch a contemporary adaptation of water puppetry in Hanoi’s bustling centre; live music and subtitled storytelling accompany the visually stunning aquatic displays, making the hour a historical experience as well as whetting the artistic palette.
The musical accompaniment is played on cymbals, horns, bamboo flutes and gongs, with loud, deliberate splashing caused by the puppets themselves serving to accent the story; a fascinating juxtaposition against the legato background tones.
As the show draws to a close, the puppeteers come through the curtains, waist-deep in the water, to take a bow and perform one final, lively musical number. Waves and smiles are ever-present, with a friendly and humble atmosphere replacing the western tradition of taking a bow after performance.
With stunningly elaborate hand-painted puppets and an insight into the folklore of an ancient nation, taking in a show at the Thang Long Theatre of Water Puppetry is a must-do for any tourist; it’s distinctly Vietnamese and serves as a continuation of this gorgeous nation’s rich and endless cultural history.