I’ve always enjoyed visiting museums, most especially ones that show history. It’s fascinating to see their old pieces of the past that have survived today. I remember the Yap-Sandiego ancestral house in Cebu which is known to be the first Chinese house to be built outside of China. It was really old but they managed to preserve the house and a lot of the furniture and things inside. I have also gone to the National Museum and saw the Spolarium and the Manunggul jar. It always fascinates me how the people from before were able to create objects that can outlive wars, harsh weathers, and natural selection.
When I looked at the museums that we can visit in Vietnam, the list is overwhelming. There are so many places to go, but we decided on three places namely: The War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, and the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum.
The War Remnants Museum
This is another highly recommend attraction in Ho Chi Minh. It tells the tale of what happened during the Vietnam War in the 60’s. It’s probably the most informative museum I have been to and the most harrowing also. We went without a guide and kind of just went around reading the captions on the photos. I’m not sure if we were allowed to take photos as no one is taking any but it also didn’t seem appropriate to do so, however I managed to take a few pictures.
The entrance fee to the museum was 40K VND (around PHP 85). The structure stands at three floors divided into sections.
I left the museum a little bit deep in thought. I always think of wars happening way back in the earlier 1900’s, but the Vietnam war started during the 50’s/60’s — a time in which my parents were born. That means a lot of the people currently living in Vietnam around that age and older are survivors of the war. The things that a lot of them had to endure was horrific and unimaginable.
I highly recommend visiting the War Remnants Museum when you go there. The museum was designed fantastically and they have so many preserved artifacts. The captions are all so detailed and you would learn so much, not just about the war, but why Vietnam is like that today. Going around the museum can take you 1 to 2 hours maximum, maybe even three as there is so much to take in. Really worth it.
We went to the Fine Arts Museum next but it was closed. Since it was already afternoon, we decided to just continue our museum adventures the next day.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum
The Ho Chi Minh City museum is housed under the Gia Long Palace. The Gia Long Palace was built back in the 1800’s with a neoclassical design. That in itself is pretty impressive, but when you go inside, it’s much more stunning. It obviously had that old feel to it but it was a really massive place which tells us more about the history of Ho Chi Minh. Compared to the War Remnants Museum, there isn’t a lot of visitors in there. There’s a lot of life-sized dioramas so some parts of the museum were a little spooky. It was very picturesque though. I can just imagine how beautiful it was back in its prime. The place looks old now, as in some parts of the paint are peeling and it’s a little scary to go up the stairs since they are a little creaky BUT I think that adds charm to the place and their way of keeping it as close to how it was centuries ago.
The entrance fee to the museum is 25K VND (around PHP 25). I recommend that you visit this place to learn more about Ho Chi Minh. We didn’t finish the whole place because we got really scared of some of the diorama since it was just my friend and I when we went. They are eerily life like. There was even one that I didn’t see until I walked in and I got surprised. It might be a little hard to tell if they were real or not… and what if they said hello back? That’s when we decided to nope out because there didn’t seem to be any staff nearby where we were.
Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum
Of all the places we went to, this museum has to be the most interesting. It had a lot of paintings, some of which were even done by Filipino artists. What I found interesting about it is that it’s a little confusing to navigate. You’re just go round and round and then you end up somewhere else.
We quickly went around this place because we were starting to get a little bit tired. We weren’t sure if the elevator is working too so we didn’t go up the higher floors. The floors we were in mostly contained contemporary art.
If you like art and paintings, then the Fine Arts Museum is definitely a must visit for you. Although we only went to limited floors, I don’t think I would be able to count how many paintings I’ve seen. I also appreciated seeing works by artists who were non-Vietnamese. You can kinda see the overlapping themes of Asian/Eastern art vs. Western art, and how we define contemporary differently.
The entrance fee to this museum is 30K VND (around PHP 60). Still not as much visitors too!
Those were the three places we went to. Something historical, artistic, and unique to Vietnam. I really enjoyed my time there to learn more about Vietnam. It’s a neighbor country yet there’s not much about it I know of and having gone to the museum has greatly increased my knowledge of it outside of how great it is to shop there.
I really do suggest visiting these museums and the other museums that Vietnam has. One central theme that these three museums had was to show the struggle they faced during the Vietnamese war. I also like that they have so much artifacts to show! The War Remnants Museum wasn’t just pictures, but it also had actual objects that were used in the war. The HCM City Museum was big and the rooms are filled with the objects that were really used back in those days. I love it. They kept as much as they could and it is truly their ownership; compared to other museums who would “borrow” or retrieve other countries’ artifacts and display it in their museums.
If you’re planning to visit, definitely reserve a day to look at their museums. If your itinerary is full, I suggest not to skip the War Remnants Museum. It’s something that’s very unique to Vietnam and would be a fruitful visit. I think that even if you’re not a fan of museums, you will still appreciate being there.
- The places we went to aren’t so near of each other so we ended up taking a cab to go there. I suggest to plan your route properly as HCM is very walkable (just really hot!) and places are nearer than you think for as long as you plan it well.
- Dress appropriately — probably just a me thing but I felt uncomfortable seeing people wearing flip flops and a very skimpy tube top while we were in the War Remnants Museum. Although there’s no dress code and I guess it can be hot for people who don’t live in the tropics, I think we need to be a little aware when going to places.
- Unless you go with a guide, they are pretty much relaxed and no security is around so make sure to take as much time. Also be mindful if you can take pictures. There are also some places where flash photography is not allowed (especially with artwork) so you have to be careful with that as well.