54 Traditions Gallery

What we say: 3.5 stars

54 Traditions Gallery is housed in a nondescript building on Hang Bun Street, north of Old Quarter. Think Dr Who’s Tardis: from the front it looks just like the frosted-glass entrance to a small office — a local solicitor’s perhaps — but inside it opens up into a five-storey treasure trove, full of antiquities from the ethnic minorities of Vietnam.

A multi-storey treasure trove

A multi-storey treasure trove.

If you have any interest at all in the subject of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities, then this is a must-visit. While the Museum of Ethnology is a more spacious venue and the Women’s Museum provides insight from a gendered perspective, 54 Traditions Gallery overwhelms the senses with antiques, artifacts and art crowding every surface. Galleries include tribal textiles, tribal tools, Shamanic arts paraphernalia and jewellery.

The only time you'll see anything Vietnamese standing in line

An orderly queue. In Vietnam!

Not only that, but all of the 1,000+ items on display are also for sale, at anything from 15 to many thousands of dollars, making for some unique and interesting gifts. Note that each item comes with a detailed (1,000+ word) fact sheet — another indication of how much they understand and care about their collection.

The 'guess the use' wall

The 'guess the use' wall.

So a great collection of items, an unpretentious environment and items for sale — but what really clinches the deal is that Mark, the co-owner, is almost always on hand and gives every guest an engaging tour of the collection. So if, like me, you can’t be bothered with reading the uninspiring 10-word description that usually accompanies artifacts in a museum, you won’t have to — he’ll give you an interesting overview and answer any questions he can about the minorities. (You can add this to your list of things to do on a rainy Hanoi day, actually.)

The gallery also conducts cultural activities, including tours of the Museum of Ethnology and the Museum of History, interactive lectures and other participatory events.

Last updated: 9th October, 2014

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