Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam is famed for a variety of reasons starting with the unquestionable historical importance it holds owing to the war period of Vietnam and later being elected as the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, going on to the scenic beauty that the natural attractions of the city like the Long Bien Bridge and the Perfume River and from there to the historic masterpieces in the shape of religious and spiritual buildings like the One Pillar Pagoda, Turtle Pagoda and the Literature Temple of Den Ngoc Son to name a few.
Yet, the diverse list of tourist attractions in this 1000 years old city just keeps on coming. The city celebrated its 1000th birthday in October 2010 and is home to the greatest number of historical sites and traditions all over the country. Talking of traditions and culture one specific event/practice is iconic to the Vietnamese people; water puppetry. Mua Roi Nuoc as it s referred to in the native language, literally translates into puppets that dance on water –the art originated somewhere back in the 11th century and the culture loving people of the area have kept it alive and attractive ever since then.
Among many other puppet shows and theaters that go around the country, one is famed internationally; the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. Carrying the flag of this 1000 year old tradition since quite a few decades, the theater has played a vital role in popularizing the art of water puppetry all around the globe including; Australia, Greece, Philippines, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Iran, France, Italy, Mexico, America, Brazil, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Thailand. All this is without taking account of thousands of tourists that visit the theater in Dinh Tien Hoang Str., Hanoi.
The play takes place on top of a 4 meters high stage inside an enclosure beside Lake Ho Hoan Kiem in the Old Quarter where you get to be seated in first class seats for unbelievable low prices. Musicians come in to start off the proceedings with the traditional Vietnamese music which is typical of a shrill woman’s voice accompanied by male singers and all the traditional instruments. Now these instruments are played elsewhere to, but the mastery with which the bands at the water puppet show enthrall you are nowhere else to be seen. The music does not last long and is replaced by puppets who just like their name, Mua Roi Nuoc, suggests literally dance on water portraying some of the tales from the past with the likes of the Legend of the Co Loa citadel, a story from 257 BC involving kings and their reigns or the Legend of the fairy and the dragon which speaks of how some of the inhabitants of Vietnam are descendants of the dragon in question and the fairy he fell in love with –the show has won a multifold of accolades and awards.
This goes apart from the fact that the fascinating play is a good use of time for both elders and children are alike. Where the elders can look into the history and legends of the Vietnamese people while enjoying traditional music and the children can have the time of their life watching puppets on water for the first time in their lives. It is such a remarkable experience that on the list of to do activities in Hanoi (even the whole of Vietnam) for that matter, no one would skip it.
Even in the words of famous newspapers like the Sunday Telegraph, Australia it is a much needed vacation for all: “What about children? We can freely imagine during an hour of the performance, and we must say that this is a useful, good change to set them away from Sega’s world”.