Thursday, May 08, 2014

Mulling museums

We strolled through 3 museums during our stay in Hanoi. First stop was the Vietnam National Museum of History housed in a colonial French building of 1932. Displays included artifacts from the earliest periods to recent history. The plethora of exhibits included weapons, funerary jars, casting bronze drums, and religious decorum to mention a few.

From there, we moved to the Hao Lo Prison Museum. This prison was significant for a couple of reasons worth mentioning. First, and sadly, it was where the resistant fighters to the French occupation were incarnated and where they were subjected to brutal treatments, torture, and death.

No means of escape

Then during the Vietnam/US war, it was where the downed US pilots were held and they coined the term "the Hanoi Hilton". The US prisoners, including Senator James McCain, were treated very well and were allowed many comforts and privileges. All were released at the end of the war. No doubt a propaganda statement of good will.

Another day we rented a motorcycle and went to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, (www.vme.org.vn) about 7.5 km from our hotel. Not far in distance, but it took a long time to get there (and back) due to poor or no signage and heavy traffic. Ethnology means "the study of the characteristics of various peoples and the differences and relationships between them". After paying the entry fee, we were directed to the motorcycle parking by the busy staff.

Parkade security

On first entering the Museum, we noticed a bicycle with 800 fish carts attached to it. Next to it, was a framed picture of the man who actually rode this bicycle exactly as shown.

Our photo of Museum's picture

The well done exhibits represented many of the cultures of the 54 distinct peoples of Vietnam's history, many of which still occupy the country and have proudly maintained their unique features and customs. The Tay ethnic group designed the Museum in the shape of the Dong Son drums which are large round drums made of bronze.

Displayed were samples including cotton and silk clothing, aluminum and silver jewellery, weapons, woven baskets, and musical instruments. The intricate designs of embroidery, the striking colourful appliques, and the dying process of clothing displayed the workmanship involved in the creations of these contrasting ethnic villagers.

Throughout our stay in Vietnam, we saw many wearing the "pointed" hats and an example of how they are made was shown in the Museum.


Also exhibited on the grounds of the Museum were examples of some of the peoples' houses such as those of the Cham of southern and central Vietnam, Sedang of the Central Highlands, H'Mong who inhabit the highest reaches of the mountains of northern Vietnam, and many others.

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