Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum (Content Warning)

Ho Chi Minh’s War Remnants Museum is one of the most impressive collections of military history that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. The museum is not just impressive, but highly moving, if you are faint of heart, I would advise caution in visiting due to some of the content of the museum being highly graphic in nature. I have made sure not to upload any photographs displaying content that I regard as being overly graphic. The museum houses some of the key war machines used in the Vietnam War, these are kept in fantastic condition.  They also house a highly impressive collection of Vietnam War weaponry, including weapons ranging from pistols, right through to bazookas, chain guns, and mortars. A key part of the museum that some may have a problem with, is the section of the museum dedicated to Agent Orange and its ongoing effects on the people of Vietnam. This section includes numerous photographs of deformity and diseases caused by the dumping of the chemical throughout the country. They also house several deformed babies that are kept preserved in glass cases. The other key section that may upset some visitors is the room dedicated to war crimes/atrocities, this room features some highly graphic photographs that I have chosen not to include in this article. As well as these sections, the museum also houses an extensive propaganda section with documents from both sides of the war, as well as a torture section demonstrating what POWs went through when captured.

 

 

Hanoi’s Museums

There are two sides to Hanoi’s museum collections, one focuses on Vietnamese history as a whole, while the other focuses solely on Ho Chi Minh. When I say Ho Chi Minh, I mean the man and not the city. Ho Chi Minh has an almost cult-like following in Vietnam, particularly in the North. The perfect example of this is the Ho Chi Minh Museum located in central Hanoi. This entire complex is literally dedicated to the legend of the man himself. The museum’s collection consists of everything from the man’s childhood clothing, through to chairs he once sat on, his childhood house itself, pens he once used to ythng you could think of. There are also some extremely random art pieces replicated throughout the museum and large metal and crystal structures resembling James Bond villains lairs. I highly suggest visiting this museum for a unique experience and a look into the extent of a national cult of personality. The other museum in town, The National Museum of Vietnam, is a more traditional collection of historic pieces from Vietnam’s dynasties passed and also well worth the visit. There are also numerous other museums in the city, many focusing on the Vietnam War that I did not have time to visit.

http://www.baotanghochiminh.vn/tabid/528/default.aspx

http://www.baotanglichsu.vn/subportal/en/Home/mid/29453A92/

Vientiane

Vientiane is the capital city of Laos and is definitely the largest in the country by far, but still does not feel like a capital city. The city and surrounding area has between 500,000 and 750,00 residents depending on which survey ou trust. The pace of the city is so slow for a metropolitan area, especially after visiting other such areas in neighbouring countries. The city has an interesting blend of Laotian and French culture, which an be found in its food, architecture, and way of life. Throughout the city, you will find Buddhist temples, located between French colonial buildings. The cuisine in the city is a very definite mix of French fine dining and bakeries and traditional Laotian cuisine serving restaurants and food carts. Located in the center of the city, at its heart is Pha That Luang, a grand historical monument, central to the identity of Laos itself. This is a large golden Buddhist tower, which sadly I couldn’t get close to during my visit for unknown security reasons. The city has some fantastic museums, mixing pre-European Laotian history with French colonial history, as well as Vietnam War and Indochinese War history. If you have a few days in the city make sure to enjoy the cuisine, visit the night markets and soak up the unique atmosphere found only in Vientiane. I still don’t believe that I’ve been anywhere with quite the same culture.

 

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a very interesting city, having such a dark history in the past several decades. The city was the center of the Khmer Rouges reign and saw the brunt of the genocide and atrocities that occurred in the country under Pol Pot. At the same time, modern Phnom Penh is very much full of life and has a culture all of its own. The city is a must visit in anyone’s lifetime. I can’t think of many other places where you can visit bustling markets, shoot an AK47 or RPG, visit a genocide museum, hit the clubbing scene and visit a silkworm farm all in one day. In saying that, I suggest spending a few days exploring the city. The center city evening food market is an amazing experience and will allow you to try all aspects of Khmer cuisine, all while enjoying a seat on the ground and listening to local live music. One of any of the city’s shooting ranges is worth visiting to be able to use weapons that most other countries will not allow.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng is the location that prisoners were taken, interogated, tortured and often killed before being taken to the mass killing and burial sites throughout the city. The most notorious of these sites is Choeung Ek. I highly recommend visiting the prison complex/museum before the mass graves, both in order to fully understand what occurred in the city and to prepare yourself for what is to come. If you are faint of heart, then you may struggle with both locations, as graphic images are present at the museum, along with the photos and clothes of those killed, including men women and children.

Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields)

Choeung Ek is a haunting place, a testament to the darker side of humanity, a glimpse into what we are truly capable of. If you are feint of heart, this may not be the place for you to visit. If you want to truly understand what occurred in Cambodia, then I suggest that you do visit this place. For the same reason that Auschwitz is important to visit and remember, so too is Choeung Ek. Be prepared to see former mass graves, along with a very large amount of human remains and to read about what happened to those who lost their lives in this terrible place.

Russian Markets

The Russian Markets are a lighter-hearted  attraction, these are worth visiting to get an idea of what a Cambodian marketplace is, while this is one of the more touristy markets in the country, it is still a great experience and a chance to try more local food.