“ Saigon traffic is Vietnamese life, a continuous charade of posturing, bluffing, fast moves, tenacity and surrenders.” – Andrew .X. Pham
I dropped a smile when reading those lines, cause being a Saigonese myself, I agree with the author that it is truly a delightful chaos. However, finding a peaceful place to temporarily rest your soul in the centre of Saigon isn’t that hard. For those who are looking for a quiet spot in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum is the place to be.
A brief introduction to the Museum
This building was constructed by a group of French architects between 1929 and 1934 as formerly a villa owned by the Chinese wealthy businessman Hứa Bổn Hòa (Uncle Hoa). The structure of the blocks combines between Art-deco style and Oriental fusion. It is one of the typical fusion buildings amongst several legacies that Saigon earned pending its colonial period. The museum was first opened to the public in 1989, storing collections of paintings, potteries, religious and non-religious sculptures from ancient to temporary time.
Reasons to visit Fine Arts Museum
Saigon owns its fame for the complex historical backgrounds. When travelling here, you might find most museums have historical, but particularly, Vietnam war concept. Fine Arts Museum, however, is unique as it is the only art museum in the city. Personally, it is my most favourite museum in Saigon and here are some reasons that I think you should write it in your Saigon travel list:
Fine Arts Museums is located in district 1, considerably opposite to Ben Thanh Market. So, it is not difficult to find the way to the museum. You can walk there after visiting Ben Thanh Market. From the market’s main entrance, cross the roundabout, continue straight to the big gasoline station, the museum is right behind!
Direct address: 97A Phó Đức Chính, Quận 1
*Unique Vietnamese arts experience
Blocks, floors and exhibition rooms are categorized by certain periods of arts development in Vietnamese society. Maps of the museum are available at the ticket counter. But it doesn’t matter visiting the museum with or without guidance. For me, I prefer getting lost from one little corridor to another while admiring every charming piece of art inside the museum.
Temporary and modern arts are displayed in the main building. Items in here are paintings and sculptors represent arts during colonial time, wartime and post-wartime. You will find in here many spectacular artworks, especially, Vietnamese lacquer paintings – an authentic Vietnamese painting technique.
*A journey to the vintage Saigon
Spending an easy afternoon in the museum is like taking a mind gap from the busy atmosphere outside. The 90-year-old building holds the perfect vintage view since it has kept the original design since its first construction.
Right at the entrance, there’s a retired elevator that was one of the first lifts ever introduced to Saigon’s fancy villa. From rooms to rooms, the playful tiles swap colours and patterns gives the kaleidoscope effect. Towards the corridors, sunbeams slant through half-opened windows, reveal the mystery of the hidden art treasure in town.
In the third block of the museum lies a truly mesmerizing work of arts. A spiral stair accompanying a stained glass window leading towards the floral pattern ceiling. Witnessing this corner might make you respect the architects for their wonderful aesthetic in interior design.
A thorough visit takes approximately 2 hours, but it is possible to stay longer. Just bring a book (or sketchbook) of your choice and enjoy a quiet and peaceful afternoon apart from the busyness outside. The museum’s open hours is from 8:00 to 18:00. Tickets price is 45,000Đ per entrance.