Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre: The Highlight of Hanoi Tourism

What to See in Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: November 13, 2020

Being known as the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, the place has become an indispensable culture center of Hanoi, Vietnam. Water puppet is an outstanding and unique intangible culture of Vietnam. In a water puppet show, the stage will be a small pond, the performers hide behind a bamboo curtain, controlling the puppet and present scenes on the water surface. The Thang Long Theatre has been doing a great job of preserving and performing this type of art throughout the years, therefore the place is considered as a remarkable culture of Hanoi, Vietnam.

    Location: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang street, Hang Bac ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
    Phone: 024 382 49494 - 024 382 55450
    Website: http://thanglongwaterpuppet.com/
    Ticket price: 100,000 - 200,000 VND / ticket

I. Highlights of the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi

1. Long-term history

Highlights of Thang Long water puppet theatre
Source: @markjlwang

The Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi may be considered one of the oldest architectural structures in Hanoi, Vietnam. The place had been opened on the 10th of October, 1969. In 2019, the Hanoi City People’s Committee had arranged a huge anniversary to celebrate the 50th year of operating the Water Puppet Theatre. 

Water puppet is one of the most outstanding cultures of Vietnam, attracting the attention of many people around the world. The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is among the few places that still reserve and perform this type of art. Therefore, the theatre is highly appreciated by major Vietnamese people.

At first, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre was named the Kim Dong Artistic Union with only 9 people. In 1975, the place was named Hanoi Puppet Union. Finally, in 1993, the theatre moved to its current location on Dinh Tien Hoang Street and beared the name we all know nowadays: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

Although having been opened for a long time, it was not until 1990 that the theatre started to build its water stage for the water puppet show. At that time, the theatre had been through many hardships due to the consequences of the war. In 1992, the water puppet was first performed by the theatre in a foreign country, Japan to be more specific, and gain the attention of many audiences around the world. Since then, there had been numerous amazing plays being created by the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The theatre has performed in more than 40 foreign countries as well as taken part in numerous international festivals, helping to promote Vietnamese water puppet to the world.

2. Special Location

Located on the Dinh Tien Hoang Street, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre lies in the center of Hanoi. This place attracts hundreds of international tourists each month, so the theatre is also visited by a huge number of audiences. Travelers often combine sightseeing at Hoan Kiem Lake with watching water puppet shows at the theatre. 

If you walk on Dinh Tien Hoang Street, you will be able to notice the theatre very easily, not only because the building lies right at the front of the street but also because it has 3 floors. That is one of the small reasons why the theatre was known and loved by many foreign people.

Musicians in Thang Long water puppet show
Source: wikimedia.org

3. Preserve the intangible cultural of Vietnam

Water puppet is considered as the symbol of intangible cultural in Vietnam, but due to the increasing development of technology, such traditions are slowly getting ignored by the young generation. The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre take it as their responsibility to preserve and promote this unique type of art, in order to make sure that the Vietnamese tradition won’t be drowned in the new wave of modern customs.

In recent years, the theater has restored 17 ancient folk water puppets tricks, plays and traditions to create an artistic breakthrough nationwide. Not only recovered old water puppet tricks, but the Thang Long theatre also made new performances which are more creative, attractive and wonderful, but still based on the traditional features of the Vietnamese water puppet. 

Thanks to the theatre’s effort, more and more international people know about water puppet – the one of a kind art of Vietnam, as well as helping young Vietnamese generations to not forget the traditional cultures of the country. The Thang Long water puppet theatre has received lots of honored medals and prizes for its attempt.

water puppet performs with live music in Thang Long theatre

4. Perform with live music

Every stage needs music and background sounds to support the performance, helping audiences to understand the feeling and meaning of the show. Most theatres often use music that had been recorded in advance. However, the staff in Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre perform with live music that is pulled off by a professional band. The music and sounds, therefore, are clearer, more melodious and high-class.

The music band performs in Thang Long theatre not only can perform folk music but also can perform Western music, which is very helpful in international events. Therefore, the Thang Long theatre is not only made for water puppet but also for various shows for both domestic and foreign audiences. 

II. The Hanoi Water Puppet Show

water puppet show in Thang Long water puppet theatre
Source: @fabs_wen

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre holds shows almost every day of the week. There are usually around 5 or 6 shows a day in different time phrases. The schedule is updated every week on the official website of the Thang Long theatre. Each show lasts for about 1 hour, which is enough for tourists to be immersed in the fascinating attractions of the water puppet in Vietnam.

During the time around holidays such as Christmas, New Year or other fiestas of Vietnam, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre often holds special events and shows to celebrate these occasions. The water puppet shows are performed by a group of talented elite artists, who have gained such fame and recognition with their phenomenal skills. 

Not only acts and perform Vietnamese traditional plays, such as Truong Ba’s Soul in the Butcher’s Body, Children of Dragon, etc, but the theatre also creates new plays based on the Western culture such as Ballet and more. Every scene is acted by the puppet, while artists control and voiceover for them behind the curtain. It’s the creativity and uniqueness of this kind of art that attracts the curiosity of foreign people.

III. What to See & Do in the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre?

What to do in Water puppet theatre

1. Learn about Vietnamese water puppet and culture

The puppet show is very popular in most countries, but not many people are aware that the water puppet is the kind of art that only appears in Vietnam. Coming to see a water puppet show is to understand more about the culture and traditions of the Vietnamese. Each play performed on the stage is a legend or a story that tells the heroic history and the colorful customs of the S-shaped country. Water puppet helps foreign people to know more about Vietnam, as well as help them to learn more about the Asian civilization.

Not only learn about the traditional culture of the country Vietnam, but the audiences of water puppet shows at Thang Long theatre also get the chance to review Vietnamese folk tales through the new perspective of water puppet art. After a 1-hour play, the audiences will be able to differentiate between the water puppet and the normal puppet show. The virtuoso technique of manipulating water puppets will surely impress international travelers as well as help them feel the peaceful beauty of the rural countryside of Northern Vietnam.

Drink cafe in Dinh Tien Hoang street
Source: motogo.vn

2. Sit down at the cafe of the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre was located on Dinh Tien Hoang Street – the street that covers around the famous Hoan Kiem Lake of Hanoi with the remarkable Turtle Tower. On weekends, all means of transport are forbidden to enter the street, creating a wonderful space for people to walk around and enjoy the peaceful sceneries of the lake. 

After enjoying a show, audiences can sit down and enjoy a delicious drink at the cafe that was placed on the first floor of the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The cafe is decorated in a modern Western-style, serves all kinds of delicious coffees and drinks, as well as savory and snacks. The cafe was named “Helio”, which is easy to find in the bustling street. If not, tourists can choose one of many other cafes and snack shops on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. The landscapes of Hoan Kiem Lake is absolutely worth visiting, so it will be an unforgettable experience to travel around the Dinh Tien Hoang street after enjoying a water puppet show at Thang Long theatre.

IV. How to Get to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre?

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is located on Dinh Tien Hoang Street, where numerous bus routes pass by. You can hop on buses number 08, 09, 14, 31, 36, 86 and get down at Dinh Tien Hoang Street, then walk to the theatre. 

Taxis are the fastest means of transportation to arrive at the Thang Long theatre, although it may cost more money than other ones. In Hanoi, it is also easy to find a motorbike renting a place, if you want to try finding ways around the capital of Vietnam on your own, this will be the perfect option. 

Remember that during weekends, all transportations will be forbidden to come into Dinh Tien Hoang Street. On these days, whichever transportations you go by, you will have to stop outside the street, get out of your vehicle and walk on foot. 

V. Tips on Visiting the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

  • Consider carefully when choosing seats. The front seats which are near the stage will give you a better chance to closely watch the puppets, however, due to the stage being covered in water, audiences that sit near may get splashed on from time to time. If you don’t think this will be an inconvenience, don’t hesitate to choose the front seats.
  • Check the schedule before watching. The schedule of the shows will be updated regularly on the official website of the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Make sure to check it and choose the show you want to see. Some shows will have English subtitles for foreign audiences, which is shown on the screen, as well.
  • Extra fees will be charged for cameras. If you want to take pictures during the show, you will have to pay an extra fee of 20.000 VND, and 60.000 VND for filming. This price will be asked in payment for each device. 
  • Sunday is a perfect day to come to Thang Long theatre. On Sunday, the Thang Long theatre often holds more shows than other days of the week. So if you are a busy person and can hardly find spare time, consider going on Sunday because there will be more options for you to choose from. However, on weekends there will be more audiences at the theatre, so you should arrive early to take great seats.
  • Buy tickets early. Due to the rules of the Thang Long theatre, one must have their ticket at least 30 minutes before the show starts. 

VI. Frequently Asked Questions about Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Do I need to book Thang Long Water Puppet tickets in advance?

No. But it is best if you do, because the theatre is often crowded with audiences, especially on weekends.

What’s the best way to see Thang Long Water Puppet?

► Choose the VIP seat because it provides a better view, despite having a higher price. 
► Arrive at the theatre at least 30 minutes before the show.
► Concentrate fully during the show. Each show only lasts for 45 to 60 minutes, you won’t understand its meaning if you don’t pay attention to every detail.

Where to stay near Thang Long Water Puppet?

Some outstanding options of hotels in Hoan Kiem District, near Dinh Tien Hoang Street are:
► Golden Rice Hotel Hanoi: 36 Hang Trong Street
► Silk Collection Hotel & Spa: 58 Hang Gai Street
► OYO 376 A Dong Hotel: 46 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street
► Hanoi La Siesta Central Hotel & Spa: 18 Cau Go Street
► Royal Holiday Hanoi Hotel: 19 Hang Hanh Street
► The Oriental Jade Hotel: 92 – 94 Hang Trong Street
► Hanoi Sky Hotel: 27 Tong Duy Tan Street

What attractions are near Thang Long Water Puppet?

► Hoan Kiem Lake
► Turtle Tower
► Ngoc Son Temple and The Huc Bridge
► The monument of King Ly Thai To
► Dong Son Nghia Thuc Square
Hanoi Opera House
Dong Xuan market
► The big church, or also known as Saint Joseph Cathedral
Night market and Dinh Tien Hoang walking street (on weekends)

Water puppet is one of the most remarkable cultures of Vietnam, and Thang Long theatre is the most famous place in the field of preserving this wonderful art. Coming to Hanoi, Vietnam, don’t miss the chance of watching and learning about this one of a kind type of performing, because the water puppet is only available in Vietnam. Not only experience something unique but you will also learn so much more about the customs and tradition of the beautiful S-shaped country.

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