Chi Minh City’s museums
The War Remnants Museum (07.30 to 11.45 and 13.30
to 15.15 daily)
By far the most popular of Ho Chi Minh City’s museums, the
War Remnants Museum presents a partial, but riveting, view
of the American War, as it is known in Vietnam. The horrors
of warfare, aptly demonstrated by a large gallery of graphic
pictures and deformed embryos, and a grisly display of some
of the hideous booby-traps used by the Viet Cong to protect
the Cu Chi tunnel network, are counterbalanced by a room
concerned with international opposition to the war and the
American peace movement.
Outside are an interesting exhibition
of military hardware and a mock-up of one of the infamous
‘tiger cages’ used in the prison on Con Son Island. The
latter reminds visitors that the conflict was, in reality,
a civil war, with US forces supporting the Vietnamese ‘Saigon
regime’. The tiger cages were used to torture suspected
Viet Cong guerrillas first by the French, and later by officers
of the South Vietnam Army.
The History Museum (Monday to Saturday
08.00 to 11.00 and 13.30 to 16.00. Sundays: 08.30 to 16.00)
Ho Chi Minh City’s History Museum
is housed in an attractive building next to the Botanical
Gardens. Most of its exhibits are presented in chronological
order from Vietnam’s primeval landscape to the expulsion
of the French colonialists.
Although conservative in its approach
to display, and lacking effective interpretation of the
significance of its many artefacts, it provides a comprehensive
and comprehensible overview of the creation and development
Among the specialised displays is
a well presented exhibition of Champa statuary second only
to the Champa Museum in Danang in quality, and relicts from
Oc Eo, a large port serving Funan, a Hindu Kingdom close
to Vietnam’s present border with Cambodia that flourished
in the first half of the first millennium.
Fine Arts Museum (Tuesday to Sunday 09.00 to 16.45)
The building housing the Fine Arts Museum is worth a visit
in its own right as a fine example of French Colonial architecture.
Inside, there are some interesting exhibits, notably a large
display of propaganda posters and images from Vietnam’s ‘social
realism’ period, and a good collection of Cham and Oc Eo
artefacts. Unfortunately, the galleries seem to be arranged
more or less at random, and lack interpretation, so it’s
very difficult to gain an understanding of the development
of Vietnamese art.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum (07.30 to 11.30 and 13.30 to 21.00
daily) is something of a disappointment. Although it displays
a reasonable number of articles and memorabilia associated
with Uncle Ho, there is no cohesion and consequently no
sense of the reality of the man.
A better bet is the Ho Chi Minh City
Museum (08.00 to 11.30 and 14.00 to 16.30 from Tuesday to
Sunday). The building is attractive, and the collections
effectively illustrate the various periods of Saigon’s 300-yr
history. Some of the artefacts have iconic status, such
as the US F-5E jet flown by a renegade South Vietnamese
pilot to attack President Diem’s Presidential Palace.