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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ho Chin Minh "Vietnamese Water Puppet Show"

One of the first thing we did in Ho Chin Minh was to watch the water puppet show, a traditional art in Vietnam.  We watched the water puppet show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre which is located at 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City.  The theatre is only a few minutes away from our hotel and I'm glad to say that we walked that few blocks at night in the quiet streets of Ho Chi Minh without the fear of getting mugged.  It was a very nice feeling, of not being overly conscious of myself every time I walk the streets of a new country I'm visiting.

The water puppet show is based on the daily life of Vietnamese farmers such as farming, tending buffalo, rearing ducks, fishing, etc.  It also incorporates entertainment such as children playing, dragon and phoenix dancing, boat racing, etc.  And also showing historical legends of King Le Loi and the restored sword.

The show was certainly very pleasing and entertaining, specially the part when the puppets move together in the same rhythm.  One can only watch in awe.  Since it was the first time we all watched the water puppet show, we were all puzzled at how they could have made the puppets move on water and the most asked question was where were all the puppeteers and where were they hiding.  Questions soon answered as the show unfold.

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
Traditionally dressed man and women waiting at the entrance

Below are the sample of the Water Puppet Show's Program brochure:
Vietnamese Water Puppet Show brochure
Vietnamese Water Puppet Show program
The Water Puppet Show Program includes:
  • Raising the Festival Flag
  • The narrator: Teu
  • Dragon Dance
  • On a buffalo with a flute
  • Agriculture
  • Catching frogs
  • Rearing ducks and catching foxes
  • Fishing
  • Returning to the native land after winning the first place of nation - wide exam
  • Lion dance
  • Phoenix dance
  • King Le Loi on boat tour or the legend about "Restored sword"
  • Children playing in water
  • Boat racing
  • Unicorns play with ball
  • Fairy dance
  • Dance of four Holy Animals 

I have taken some of the snapshots of the show to give you some idea:

The Water Puppet Stage
The narrator: Teu
Dragon Dance
On a buffalo with a flute
Catching frogs
Rearing ducks and catching foxes
Returning to the native land after winning the first place of nation - wide exam
Lion dance
Phoenix dance
King Le Loi on boat tour or the legend about "Restored sword"
Children playing in water
Boat racing
Unicorns play with ball
Fairy dance
Dance of four Holy Animals
As the dance of the four Holy Animals marks the end of the show.  The puppeteers who were hiding, have you guessed by now?... they were all hiding at the back behind the green curtain.  They made the puppets move with sticks unlike the usual puppets we all know which were maneuvered by strings.  And yes, they are standing on the water behind the curtain.  It was really amazing how they maneuver these puppets with precision.  It was a skill not an ordinary puppeteer can do.

So here they are, the people behind the spectacular show that we have watched.
water puppet show
The puppeteers
Amazing aren't they?  The only comment I have was that the whole show was in Vietnamese and foreigners couldn't understand the story unless they have the program on their hands.  I could only hope that they do some form of translation.  But hey, who am I to complain, maybe they purposely did this for the audience to experience the authenticity of the show.  Other countries like South Korea and Japan do shows in their own languages too to show its authenticity.  A bit of a hassle for foreigners but whatever their reason, its a must see.

Hope I have whet your interest.  This is one of the things to do in Vietnam!

Check out my other post:

Vietnam Restaurants:

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