Don’t go looking for major sights in Ho Chi Minh
Saigon is not a city with a lot of gobsmacking sights.
Touristic attractions like the General Post Office and the Notre Dame basilica are okay, but not that spectacular for the seasoned traveler. Especially not for travellers from Europe who have been exposed to a lot of culture and architecture all their lives.
Most of the city’s museums also lack the WOW-factor, but of course some are more worthwhile than others.
One that I enjoyed was the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, not to be confused with the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The latter is about Ho Chi Minh the man, while the first is about Ho Chi Minh the city.
What I like about Ho Chi Minh City Museum Saigon
Outdated, I agree
Not everyone is that enthusiastic about Ho Chi Minh City Museum and I understand where they’re coming from.
The building has known better days and the exhibits feel a bit stuffy, shabby and outdated.
I rather enjoyed our visit though.
Although poorly maintained, the architecture of the building is still impressive and the details are stunning.
Inside, the hallways are wide, long and high.
The winding stairs are beautiful and the main halls are empty but grand.
Interesting snippets of Ho Chi Minh City’s history and culture
The exhibitions are a bit of everything: nature, archeology, geography, industry, handicraft, culture, the war and the revolution.
Maybe a bit incoherent, and -as I said- set up in a bit of an old-fashioned manner, but I think it shows you interesting snippets of Saigon’s history, daily life and culture.
Air Raid Shelter
The Secret Air Raid Shelter under the Palace (that’s what this building once was, a palace) feels quite safe, being so many meters under the palace floors with such thick walls.
Not saying it was cosy though….
Vintage cars and other toys for boys
In and around Ho Chi Minh City Museum are retro means of transport on display, from bikes to gorgeous cars.
On the grounds of the museum several tanks, choppers, jet fighters and other war remnants are on permanent display.
Short history of the building
The building has had many destinations during it’s existence so far.
It was built between 1885 and 1890 by the French architect Alfred Foulhoux, who blended Occidental with Oriental styles.
It was meant to be a museum, but instead became the Governor’s Palace, also known as Gia Long Palace.
Each new regime that came in power, be it the French or the Japanese, they all took residence in the palace.
In 1962 it became the official Presidential Palace and a secret Air Raid Shelter was built under the building.
After the Revolution, in 1975, it was turned into the Ho Chi Minh City Revolution Museum.
And finally, in 1999, it became the Ho Chi Minh City Museum as it is today.