The Best Traditional Culture Show in Saigon
The Golden Lotus Theater hosts the most enjoyable traditional dance and music show in Saigon. This is a fun show with all the elaborate costumes, vibrant dances, and soulful music you’d expect and few things you wouldn’t. Like a 1000 year old water puppet show that ends with fireworks.
This culture show has good variety and great pacing. There are actually 6 distinct performances during the show. Each represents a different region and/or ethnicity of Vietnam and it’s long history. We’ve seen performances of ancient culture that drag on and get boring. Not this show. 5 of the 6 performances last only 5 minutes each. And the water puppet finale lasts less than 30 minutes. Before you know it, it’s over and you’re left wanting more. That’s a great show in our book.
We love this show. Here’s a preview to tempt you:
The first performance is a 700 year-old Vietnamese opera called Hat Boi. The four kings represent the natural forces of thunder, lightning, rain, and wind. The music is fast paced and the kings spend most of the time engaged in epic duels. In the end, they all reconcile, representing harmony in nature.
Birth of the Baby Dragon
This is the most dynamic and entertaining dance. The story behind the dance is the mythological birth of a baby dragon, who brought victory to a Vietnamese emperor. The dance has elements of well-known dragon dances with one exception. The dragons get frisky and the lady dragon gives birth to a cute baby dragon, on stage.
The accompanying music is Vietnam’s most famous traditional music, Nha Nhac. This music is 500 years old and is recognized by Unesco as a cultural heritage.
Hat Chau Van
This beautiful 400 year-old fan dance has some spooky moments. It’s represents the folk art tradition of northern Vietnam and some of its old mysticism. The main character in green is like a medium or shaman. The purpose of the dance and accompanying music is to put the “shaman” in a trance so he can communicate with the gods. His movements and sadistic smiles get a bit creepy. The music has some heavy rhythmic percussion and some twangy spine-tingling highs. There’s even some well synchronized screaming. Yikes.
Dan Da – 2000 year-old Stone Instrument
This is a purely musical performance of an amazing instrument. A Dan Da is basically a xylophone made of stone. This type of instrument is called a lithophone and is a traditional instrument in many parts of the world. One of the oldest was discovered in central Vietnam. It was more than 2000 years old. The natural and melodic sounds produced by striking these stones are astounding. This is clearly the world’s oldest “rock” music.
Lotus Lantern Dance
Called Luc Cung Hoa Dang in Vietnamese, this dance is 500 years old. The lotus is now the national flower of Vietnam and has been an important symbol for untold centuries. The Lotus Lantern Dance emphasizes the coolest aspect of lotus symbolism, how something beautiful can come from a muddy swamp.
There are about 2 dozen dancers, and each holds 2 lotus-shaped lanterns. They make simple movements with the lanterns, but the movements are well coordinated and form beautiful patterns. It reminds you of big living kaleidoscope.
Water Puppet Show
Water puppetry is the best-known and most distinctive Vietnamese art tradition. Created in northern Vietnam in the 11th century, this cultural legacy is nearly 1000 years old. Long before theaters, the ancient water puppet shows were performed right on the banks of the Red river.
The water puppet show is charming in it ancient playfulness. Pratt falls and physical humor are the dominant elements of the puppet show. The scenes alternate between ones with mythological creatures and ones with idyllic depictions of traditional Vietnamese farm life. Inevitably, both scenes devolve into wrestling, swimming, chasing, and generally splashing around as much possible.
There’s some dialog, and it’s all in Vietnamese. It’s impossible to follow, but that’s not a problem. The puppet show is an overtly physical performance. A nice little fireworks display on the water is the big finish.
The Golden Lotus Theater is the best cultural variety show in Saigon. For most visitors, this show will be all the traditional dance and music they need. For others, this show will be an invitation to see full performances of their favorite styles. This show displays a great variety of traditional arts in a very entertaining way. At 5 minutes per performance, the show offers only samples of Vietnamese culture, but those samples are authentic, beautiful, and fun. This combination makes it the best in town for some traditional Vietnamese song and dance.
Travel & Planning Info
The Golden Lotus Theater is located in the famous Rex Hotel Saigon. The Rex Hotel is located in the heart of the tourist district. It is right on Saigon’s famous pedestrian street, Nguyen Hue Blvd. If you do any typical sightseeing in Saigon, you’ll be steps from Rex Hotel many times. Why not stop in for a show?
We found that stopping by in person or calling is the best way to contact the hotel about the show.
141 Nguyen Hue Blvd, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Price: 300,000VND ($15USD)
Considering that the show is in a prestigious 5 star hotel and targeted at tourists, tickets are really cheap. Tickets are available through different tour companies, but the best place to buy them is at the Rex Hotel. Many advertisements state that there are daily shows, but this schedule can vary. In low tourist season, there are often only 3 or 4 shows per week. Check with the Rex Hotel for the schedule during your visit.
At the time of our visit showtimes were as follows: Tuesdays – Thursdays – Saturdays – Sundays at 19:00
Feeling Indulgent in Saigon?
Hotel Rex Saigon is one of the top luxury hotels in the city. They have all the 5 star amenities, but the coolest features are 2 rooftop swimming pools with great views of downtown. There’s even a poolside bar. Retail prices are outrageous, but many online deals make this 5 star palace surprisingly affordable. We’ve found deals for less than $100 USD/night during low and shoulder seasons.
Read Reviews on: TripAdvisor