One of the most popular cultural attractions in Saigon is watching a Vietnamese water puppet show. It’s a tradition that started in the flooded rice fields of Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. The art form dates back to at least 1200 CE. One of the most popular venues in Ho Chi Minh City to see a show is the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater in District 1.
Large lacquered wooden puppets perform a pool of water with a traditional Vietnamese temple as a backdrop. The puppets are on bamboo poles and controlled by the puppeteers who remain out of sight, behind the curtain in waist-deep water.
An orchestra sits to the side of the stage, playing traditional Vietnamese instruments. The band provides background music and vocals to accompany the performance. It’s all in Vietnamese, but the show is easy to understand and they provide a handout before the show in English to better help people understand what is happening.
The shows depict rural life and traditions. Some stories involve Vietnamese legends and folk tales. The stories also center on life on the farm and cover actives like the rice harvest and fishing. It is all done in an entertaining and often humorous way.
The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater is set up with stadium seating to provide the best view of the stage for all visitors. The show lasts about 45 minutes and there are several shows every day. Showtimes are 5:00 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7:45 pm. They also offer a combo ticket with a buffet.
You can buy tickets at the box office or through your hotel or tour company. Shows regularly sell out, so it is advised to buy your tickets well in advance of the show.