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Attending the Spectacular AO Show in Ho Chi Minh City

Do you love seeing a cultural show when you visit a new country? One where you get a glimpse into the country’s customs, dance, and even humor? We certainly do, and the AO Show in Ho Chi Minh really delivered!

Living in Ho Chi Minh City, Jim and I have really gotten a great feel for the Vietnamese culture, but a country’s culture is not that easy to learn. There are nuances, traditions, foods, the arts, so much! We’re trying our best to do as much as we can and pass all that information on to you.

We’ve done some really interesting and fun things in Ho Chi Minh City, like visiting the zoo, the Jade Emperor Temple, the Ho Chi Minh City History Museum, taking a motorbike food tour, private cooking lessons, and so much more. But there aren’t many opportunities for finding a cultural show, so when we learned about the AO Show, we just had to go.

Spoiler Alert! We loved it!

The AO Show was a great way to learn how the Vietnamese see themselves and what is important to them. It highlighted things like bamboo and rice. There were parts about living in the city, the noise, the motorbikes, the karaoke. There was humor, and there were spectacular acrobatic stunts. Honestly, it’s probably one of the best folk and cultural shows I’ve ever seen. I was captivated for the entire hour.

Lining up to enter the AO Show at the Saigon Opera House.

Saigon Municipal Opera House

Housed in the gorgeous Saigon Opera House, or the Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh City, right smack dab in the middle of downtown, the AO Show is a must-see! It plays three times per week at 6:00 PM and lasts about an hour.

The Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh was built in 1911 and designed by Eugene Ferret to serve 500 guests. The opera house has served as an entertainment center as well as seating for the National Assembly and People’s Assembly, but today it’s home to the famous AO Show.

Ornately decorated in the French Colonial style, there really is no bad seat in the house. We sat on the main floor about halfway between the doors and the stage and it was perfect. I also think sitting towards the front of the balcony would be fantastic as well. The show covers not only the stage, but the players come out in the audience a few times as well.

There are two lines entering the opera house each night. One is to purchase tickets and one is for pre-purchased tickets. We pre-purchased and had a QR code on our phones. It was quick and easy.

After gaining entrance to the foyer, you are greeted with a welcome drink of peach ice tea. Delicious and refreshing, it was a great way to start to enjoy the opulence of the theater. Here all the doors were open and people are standing around enjoying their drink and chatting before the show.

Once entering the air-conditioned seating areas, we had time to take in the gorgeous theater. Even though it’s small, it’s done right.

The decorations are simple and stylish, very understated and the seats were some of the most comfortable theatre seats I’ve ever sat on. For families with kids, a docent brought a large pillow to boost them up and make it easier for them to fully watch the show.

Interior of Saigon Opera House for the AO Show.

The AO Show

The show begins, and from the moment the curtain first rises, we are entranced. The opening number is an acrobatic interpretive dance using bamboo poles and baskets.

Bamboo is one of the major themes of the show, we saw them skillfully utilize the poles, baskets, and even the round bamboo boats that many people ride in, in places like Hoi An or Nha Trang. Similar to a Cirque de Soleil production, the stunts they did with the various props were nothing short of awe-inspiring.

One of the funniest, most audience-interactive, and just fun parts of the show centered around a neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh City. The set was an apartment block with a variety of characters living in each one.

The sketch included a snapshot of the lives of the Saigonese. From cooking to exercising, from riding their motorbikes all around the city to singing karaoke in the streets, it was both hilarious and true to our lives here in this metropolis. It surprised us.

After the show, the players all sat on the foyer’s steps and you can take photos of and with them on your way out.

Gorgeous ceiling of the Saigon Opera House.

How to Buy Tickets to the AO Show

As I mentioned earlier, you can also walk up and purchase tickets that night if they are still available.

The show begins at 6:00 PM and the venue opens for business an hour before. We arrived about 5:40 and even with our welcome drink we were in our air-conditioned seats with a good ten minutes to spare. The line for pre-purchased tickets was much quicker than the other line, of course.

Saigon Opera House letting out from the AO Show!

Before and After Show Drinks and Dinner Nearby

Some nearby places to go before and after the show for drinks and/or dinner include:

Pasteur Street Brewing Company, Ho Chi Minh City’s best brew pup, pop in for a preshow snack and a beer. With several choices of beer on tap, it’s all fresh and delicious and the food is excellent.

Secret Garden Restaurant is one of Saigon’s most popular rooftop restaurants with excellent upscale Vietnamese dishes and imaginative cocktails.

Final Thoughts on the AO Show

Go! Yep, that’s it. If you are wondering what to do in HCMC, go to the AO Show, you will love it!

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.