Ho Chi Minh, affectionately referred to as Uncle Ho, spent his life fighting for Vietnamese independence and, for this, he is still the country’s most celebrated figure. His images are found nearly everywhere — on signs, in schools, on money and of course it’s the official name of the commercial capital, Ho Chi Minh City — but most casual visitors to Vietnam know little about the man. If you’d like to get to know Uncle Ho, head to the waterfront in District 4 to the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
Across the Ben Nghe Channel from downtown District 1, about a five-minute walk from the Vung Tau hydrofoil ferry dock along the banks of the Saigon River, the cubed-shaped, reddish building that is the Ho Chi Minh Museum sticks out from its isolated surroundings. Also known as the Dragon House, getting the name its flamboyant roof, the building was built in the mid 1800s, when it served as office space for a French merchant company. And it was around this very spot in 1911 that Uncle Ho boarded a French ship and began his 30 years of exile.
All three storeys of the museum’s interior are dedicated to the man that bears its name. On the first two floors you’ll find a collection of pieces from his personal life, from his favourite radio to more mundane pieces like a pair of his sandals or a toothpick he used. On the third floor you’ll find an impressive gathering: the museum claims to have 3,000 Ho Chi Minh portraits. This floor also has a smaller sampling of Vietnamese artwork, mostly from children expressing their love to the great former leader.
It’s certainly not the most diverse museum in the world, and most of the item descriptions and information is only in Vietnamese, but at the low admission price of 10,000 VND it’s worth a visit. Even if you’re not really into the history, the museum’s pleasant garden alone is worth the visit. Be aware that the museum has some strange times of operation. Unlike most museums in the city, this one does not close for lunch, staying open from 7:30 to 17:00, but closing on Monday and Friday.
If you’re on a quest for more museums, Saigon has more to offer within a 15-minute cab ride. The closest spots are the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, where you’ll learn more of HCMC’s story, and the Reunification Palace, the old headquarters of the South Vietnamese Government. Or, a little further away into Distirct 3, you’ll find the War Remnants Museum.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 24th July, 2014.