When we were in Hanoi in 2003 the weather was fine and we spent our time wandering the enchanting streets in the old quarter, and stopping in at little cafés with our only tourist stop being the ‘Waterpuppet Show’, all of which are among the best ways to enjoy Hanoi.
But on our 2013 trip, it was cold and rainy, and for us rain meant time spent in museums.
The Women’s Museum
The Women’s Museum had been extensively renovated since 2003, and was a modern multilevel museum with a fascinating look into the lives of women in all stages of Vietnam’s history. Our general consensus was that was a great place to spend some time in even if it wasn’t raining…
“Women in Family”, located on the 2nd floor, tells the story of Vietnamese women through rituals and customs in marriage, childbirth and family life. This is us in traditional wedding clothes, particularly appropriate as it was our anniversary that day…
In some ways this was the most interesting floor as it showed all aspects of modern life. There were areas dedicated to traditional healing methods, goddess worship and a temporary exhibit on the lives of female street vendors. It was so interesting that the panels have now been put online at: http://www.baotangphunu.org.vn/Tin-tuc/161/online-exhibitions/.
“Women in History”, situated on the 3rd floor, introduced women in both historical and contemporary context, and in particular focussed on the memories of the wartime.
Photos of women wearing their military honours.
“Women’s Fashion”, on the 4th floor. There was a small section dedicated to contemporary fashion and jewelry design but this area primarily describes the lives and clothing of women belonging to the many different ethnic groups within Vietnam.
The Hanoi Hilton Prison
Interesting but none of the displays were anywhere close to the quality of the exhibits at the Women’s Museum. There was a fair bit of propaganda as well, which I felt got in the way of the telling the true story of this prison. (The Remnants of War Museum in Saigon is a much better place to visit if you want to find out about the horrors of war.) So this museum only gets a C+ rating from me.
More on our December 2013 trip to Vietnam.