Ho Chi Minh City Museums
One of the cheapest activities that you can do in Ho Chi Minh City is check out the array of museums in District 1. All of the museums I visited cost ₫15,000 ($.72 USD) for the entrance fee, and most of the exhibits can be seen in an hour, even for people who like to read every piece of text.
Vietnam National Museum of History – This museum focuses on the ancient history of Vietnam, displaying the stories of the kingdoms that reigned in the south of the country. Dioramas show battles between these southern kingdoms and their counterparts to the north. Exhibits also contain statues of not only Buddha, but Vishnu, Shiva and other Hindu gods. People can also watch a water puppet show at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. Photography is prohibited.
Cost of Water Puppet Show – ₫50,000 ($2.40)
Thoughts – I was personally burned out on the history of Southeast Asia by this point. I did not feel the museum offered any additional insight from the museums I visited in Thailand or Cambodia. However, the dioramas are beautiful, and the museum also displays the body of a mummified woman from the 19th century. It is eerie and interesting.
War Remnants Museum – The exhibits here share the Vietnamese point of view of the Vietnam War. In the front gate, old U.S. fighter jets and tanks are propped up for tourists to pose next to for pictures. Inside the three-story building are several photos depicting the horrors of the war. Some of the pictures also show protests and letters from world leaders urging Americans to leave Vietnam. There is also an Agent Orange exhibit and an exhibit on the photojournalists who died while covering the war.
Thoughts – I had heard a lot of stories about Americans who were upset after visiting this museum. I didn’t experience that outrage. From talking to other guests inside the museum, they were more dismayed from the Agent Orange exhibit. Pictures show Vietnamese and Americans who were born with birth defects because of the chemical. I was most moved by the photojournalist exhibit. These were people trying to find the truth in the war, giving the world thousands of images, and they died in pursuit of that truth. The exhibit was also objective, unlike the rest of the museum.
Museum of Ho Chi Minh City – This museum is a combination of the first two museums. The exhibits are more modern and localized to Ho Chi Minh City. Life-sized statues show 19th century Vietnamese working in their trade or getting married. A currency exhibit is also on the second floor that contains money from the time Vietnam was a French colony to today.
Thoughts – I only found two parts of this museum interesting. I liked the currency exhibit because I had not seen anything like it in Southeast Asia. The second part wasn’t inside the museum. I went on a Saturday and found either a couple posing for wedding pictures, or they were models for some type of publication about weddings. Either way, it was a nice surprise.