The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, located in Hanoi, is a museum exhibiting the rich diversity of Vietnamese people. At this museum, you get to learn about various ethnic groups of Vietnam, which have different languages, clothing, and history and have acted to shape Vietnam today.
As well as the indoor museum area, this museum has an outdoor area where you can actually experience the lifestyle of Vietnamese people as well as watch the water show on the weekend. In addition, in a separate building with more modern style architecture, there is a special exhibit on Southeast Asia that transports you to different countries.
This museum is filled with a lot of information about Vietnamese culture and each visitor can learn something new.
Visit the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is found in Hanoi across Cong Vien Park. It is open everyday, except for Mondays and New Year’s Holiday, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The admission fee is 40,000 VND (1.80 USD) for adults and is free for children under 6 years old.
For those used to museums in other more developed parts of Asia, this is a bit more casual. The entrance and the ticket booth are very simple at this museum with just one or two members of the staff on site.
Once you step into the museum, you first face the main building where you get to see various ethnic groups of Vietnam. In total, there are 54 unique ethnic groups found in Vietnam and the museum teaches about them in groups according to 5 ethnolinguistic families. This part of the museum is cooled by fan, thus it can be pretty hot and humid for many of us.
At the time of my visit, it was mid April and I started to sweat after going around for an hour so, thus you may like to come prepared to sweat even though the exhibits are indoors.
Celebrate the diversity of various Vietnamese ethnic groups
The differences of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam can be easily understood through the different garments each group traditionally wears. Of course, these differences are also seen in language, history, and the arrival time of each group, but something so visible like garments are easy indications that each group is indeed different.
As a person who is very much interested in fashion, being able to see different colorful garments women produce and wear was very interesting. Some of the groups decorate themselves with beautiful handcrafted garments, while other garments are more plain. You can also see different hairstyles, hair accessories, and jewels that each group wears. You quickly realize that no matter where women come from, they all care to look good.
Explore arts from Southeast Asia
In a separate, more modern building, you’ll see exhibits of the arts and crafts from other parts of Southeast Asia. Here, you get to see different Southeast Asian arts as well as African arts. The building is much newer than the main building, so if you are not so used to Vietnam’s heat and humidity, you can take a little break while you walk around this air-conditioned building.
There is a lot to explore in this building, but I found the Indonesian glass painting to be particularly beautiful and attractive. There is a whole section dedicated to Indonesian glass painting and many of these paintings are so colorful and playful.
The art of glass painting came from Europe to Indonesia in the 20th century by the Dutch and these paintings portray many different aspects of Indonesian life, such as daily life, folk arts, Islam and Indonesian history, to just name a few. This section of the museum made me want to visit Indonesia where I have not yet ventured.
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Hands-on experience at the outside area
After visiting both of the buildings, you are not yet done with the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. This museum has a large outdoor area where you can experience the life of different Vietnamese ethnic groups.
It is probably a better idea to visit the indoor parts of the museum before going outside because a lot of buildings and monuments found in the outdoor area are well described inside. This allows you to learn about what each stands for before seeing life-size examples.
For those who wish to have a guide, you can request an English guide for the outdoor section at an extra 50,000 VND (2.25 USD). You can also have a guide through the indoor part of the museum for 50,000 VND (2.25 USD) and a combined tour for 100,000 VND (5.50 USD).
For those who wish to also watch Vietnam’s famous water show, you can see the museum’s water show in the outdoor area. However, this water show is only performed on the weekends, so if it is on your list, you might like to wait till the weekend to visit the museum.
Pick a postcard as a souvenir
For those looking for a souvenir from the museum, you can find a bookstore and a souvenir store right next to the entrance. If you are thinking about sending a postcard of your adventure in Vietnam to your friends and family, you can pick up a postcard at 5,000 VND (0.22 USD) each or a more decorative 3D paper craft letter at 30,000 VND (1.35 USD).
If you get thirsty and hungry after visiting the museum, there is also a cafe found right outside of the Southeast Asia exhibit where visitors can sit down and have a drink and something to eat. Vietnam can be very hot and humid, so don’t forget to hydrate and take a break from time to time.
Learn something new about Vietnam at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
Personally, when I visit a museum in a different country, I expect it to be a lot more expensive, but this museum only cost less than 2 USD. With this price, you will be surprised to see all that the museum has to offer. It provides rich educational information about different ethnic groups that form Vietnam today and much more.
Keep in mind that the old, main building does not have an elevator or an escalator, thus if you are visiting with a child in a stroller or if you are disabled, going to the second floor can be challenging. However, the modern building with Southeast Asian exhibits is nicely air-conditioned with smooth slopes to move to the higher floors, so it is comfortable for anybody to visit.
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