Trails of Vietnam's past in the War Remnants Museum

By Christina Kim - October 07, 2015

War is never pleasant, and certainly never without casualties, I am sure we can all agree with that.

Most of the countries have, in some way or another experienced or even gotten involved in the brutality of war which accounts for that dark spot in their own past.

It is something that leaves a bitter trail that continues to follow into the future.
It is not easily forgotten, and for some, the aftermath sets a new trend of perspective as sentiments bred during the battles continue to stay rooted in their hearts and minds, passed down to generations to remind them of the pain and misery endured.


Hatred, sorrow, regret and anger are carried on, like a torch, in a never ending fashion and to tell their descendants, to never ever forget.

But most of all, gratitude for the end of tragedies and for peace to finally sink in.

I am thankful each and every day, for being born in a time where peace prevails and I pray that it will be everlasting.

War is never victorious; whoever is on the winning side.
Everyone loses in war.


Lives, homes, pride, happiness, dignity, and just everything is just ripped off in a blink of an eye.

I shudder to think of the violence and the bloody sights everywhere, where humanity seems to have lost its value.
It must have gone down, hidden underneath the masses of bodies lying on the ground.


The sites have been cleared of the bodies, cleaned to remove the stains from the blood shed and to pave way for modern development coming to take its place.
The past is wiped off the face of the ground and the present is the main focus and the rightful direction.

Is it?

The cleaning is only physical.

What you cannot see on the grounds does not mean they never exist.
Cleaning up does not just remove the fact that it was once a bloody battle ground and bodies of people laid there.
They were ancestors and forefathers of the people; and that blood relation cannot be just removed, with just a quick swipe.

They will always remain in the minds and hearts of their descendants, and of those who were there to witness for themselves the atrocity of the killings and sacrifices.
As memories, where the remnants of the war continue to follow them as stark reminders of the past.

A war-torn country herself, Vietnam has witnessed much enormities of the war.
From her own internal struggles to the intervention and invasion of the foreign powers, Vietnam has been caught in the desperate web of complexity and longing for peace.

The Vietnamese wept for their ancestors; the courageous predecessors who have fought against the barbarity of their killers, and those who have barged in to rob them of their lands, and of their dignity.

They have heard, seen, read and known about the past.
A past that is not easily forgotten and that easily puts horror movies to shame.
A past that is so bloody and filled with tragedy.

Bits and pieces of these past are preserved; from the actual fragments of the actual weapons used during the war to the heart-wrenching captured stills of the ghosts of their former warriors, and ancestors.


The Vietnamese will never forget their past.

For one unfamiliar, or even if you are familiar, and would like to know more about the history of Vietnam (you really should), these memories are preserved in the museum.

The War Remnants Museum is a recommended visit, and in fact, should be one of the first few places on the top of the list to visit to get to know about the country's background.

Without the past, there will never be the present nor the future.
The past is behind us, but it holds the key to forming the present and to mould the future.


As its name suggests, this is a place which holds most of the fragments collection from the war period in the country; mainly from the infamous Vietnam War, which plagued the country for more than two decades and is the most notorious of them all.
It is perhaps one of the, or The most loathed part in the country's history, for it took away everything and left them with deadly scars.

Scars that lasted until this very day.

Formerly known as the "Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes" in 1975, this government run establishment then changed its name to the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression (removing the words "US" and "Puppet") in 1990, and finally settling on its current name in 1995, following the diplomatic relations established with the United States.

The museum holds a large collection from the Vietnam War, contributed by the North Vietnamese and is one that serves to remind of the monstrosity of the foreign invasion; the Americans and the French (during the colonization), though mostly directed at the Americans and the effects from the notorious Vietnam War.


As such, many have argued that the museum is centered on the notion of propaganda and appears as though it is one-sided, further inciting the hatred towards the Americans who are portrayed in their ultimate evil while the North Vietnamese, or the communists are more people-centric, focusing only on ending the war to gain their liberty and chasing the invaders out.
This has led to controversy surrounding the depiction of history, particularly among the Americans and the Europeans, since they were the ones in question and they have condemned the way the museum has distorted their images in history.

Let's not take sides here, but this museum is worth a visit, for that glimpse into Vietnam's past.
An extremely horrific past, if I may add.

I had expected this to be just like most museums I have visited (and I do visit a lot of museums; museums are just my thing), but this visit left a haunting imprint in my mind, and my heart.

Tickets are not expensive here; costing about VND$15,000 which can be purchased at the entrance.

Step away from the ticket booth and be greeted by the military tanks, helicopters, fighter jets from the heydays parked on the front yard, right in front of the building.



It was as though one has just stepped into a military training base, surrounded by the these military equipment from the past, brushing up for the battle.


On the left of the building is a reproduction or the mock up of what used to be known as the Tiger Cages.
These are prisons; for the political prisoners held by the South Vietnamese government.


Pictures and historical articles document the stories and the descriptions surrounding these prisons, where many have been tortured and suffered to their death beds.

The Guillotine, brought over by the French

The brief tour is enough to send chills to the bones.


Weapons used on the prisoners




This is only the Beginning.

The remnants from the war are waiting inside.

From hall to hall; emotions will just slowly overcome you as you walk through the galleries and exhibits from Vietnam War, bits of the French occupation and also images from the My Lai Massacre


Haunting images; from real-life war photographs continue to stare and tug at my heartstrings.

Faces of tormented souls, pleading for mercy and their fights for survival are so realistic that I could almost hear their cries, their laments of desperation and for help.


They beg for mercy as they are dragged like dirt on the ground.
They are forced out of their houses, shot to death like they were nothing, with most of them kneeling for mercy.
Villages were torn down in blazing fires with tiny specks of flames flickering in that mass of black charred grounds layered with burnt mess, showing no signs of life or even hints of a previous establishment.

IMG_3536_Fotor IMG_3496_Fotor

Women and children were not spared either, as they were just "finished off" mercilessly.
Women were sexually assaulted before their deaths; and tears of shame rolled down their cheeks as they are forced to their deaths.

A famous image of the women in the My Lai Massacre 
(the women were described as buttoning their blouses following a possible sexual assault)




No one is spared.

Masses of bodies laid on the grounds, in heaps as they are piled atop one another, like they were just chickens or herds slaughtered and about to be ferried to the market.


I could not bear to look further.

It makes me question, where is the humanity?
Where is the compassion for life?
Most of all, Where is the LOVE?

The atrocities of war were evident and these images are intensified as one tours the museum.

From the brutal and merciless killings to the use of chemical agents, it was a painful journey to see the miserable past of Vietnam.

The country has gone through so much.
The people has suffered more than what any human being could imagine.

The Chemical warfare; the Agent Orange was not just moving, it was heart-breaking.



Condemned by the world as the American army deployed these chemicals on the locals, the Agent Orange was admittedly the mistake by the United States.
They have issued the apology on behalf of their men.

The apology did not erase the effects which remained on the grounds, and in the very heart of Vietnam until this very day.

Generations have suffered from the effects from these chemicals; resulting in malformed births, deformities, disabilities and suffering which should never have been there.
The new generation, the innocent ones who had Nothing to do with the war, is affected.
They were born with these defects which they had to live with for the rest of their lives.
They never even knew what they had coming.


These are not images for the weak-hearted.
It just provokes much emotion.

I am not a Vietnamese, but I could feel the sorrow, the anger and the pain they went through.
(If the images do not move you, I don't know what will).


Be it the past dwellers or the present generation, it is impossible not to shed a tear when looking at these pictures and reading the stories.

It is beyond violation of a country's honor, of a person's dignity.
It is a mutilation of rights.
This is just, hard to take in.
It is injustice.

The Vietnam War lasted for more than two decades, but the trails and memories are fresh as though from yesterday, as depicted here.

Touring the War Remnants Museum is just like journeying through Vietnam's profile and getting to know her in depth; understanding her personality.

It is an autobiography of Vietnam's provoking past.

From the past to the present, I barely walked with a dry eye around the museum.

Fortunately, the end is always slightly lifting for after all, Vietnam would not be in her state today.

The end of Vietnam War was a victorious one, and it was finally peace in the last two halls.

A beautiful friendship and support from India, and my favorite part, the period of PEACE.

Housewives in India protesting against the atrocities of the Vietnam War

After years of agonizing pain, Vietnam is greeted by PEACE.

Precious, it is that one thing everyone wants.

There is nothing more beautiful than Peace.
War is never beneficial to anyone, at all.

Why not agree on Peace, for the sake of laughter and smiles?
In the Name of Love.

Peace is sweet, gained through the victory from the war, but it is not the victory that is the best.
Rather it is that final taste of Peace in their mouths.
One they have waited for years; one they have prayed for a very long time.

Their prayers have been answered.

The most wonderful thing is to enjoy peace and most of all, Maintain Peace.

This is no ordinary museum.

Biased or not, this is not just a historical journey for any visitor.

This is far more than just a tour into Vietnam's past and the war; it is one filled with emotions.
This emotional journey has provided more than enough insight into Vietnam's story; a story that will continue to be part of her identity.


The war has ended, that's a good thing but these are more than memories, as the museum has shown us.


The war has traumatized Vietnam in many ways, and have affected them more than what meets the eye.
It is also what defines who Vietnam is today.

My favorite photo in the gallery

It is only in understanding her past, that we will fully see Vietnam as she stands in her skin today.

The war may have traumatized Vietnam, and seeing these fragments and collections of her horrifying past, have also traumatized me in many ways.

Most of all, it made me aware of the value of Peace and not take Peace for granted.

May Peace be with Vietnam, and with the rest of the world.
May PEACE be with each and everyone of us.



*This is a recommended visit, and bring packets of tissues.

Information on the Museum
The War Remnants Museum (Bảo tàng Chứng tích chiến tranh) is located in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City
Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Opening Hours: Every day 7.30am-12.00pm, 1.30pm-5.00pm (Most of the attractions are closed for lunch).
For ticketing prices and more information, please refer to the official website here.


*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal expenses, opinions and preferences and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

This is based on my personal experience and is told in a subjective manner from my perspective based on my visit.
There is no intention to create any propaganda or fuel further hatred towards any party.
I am all for Peace and I condemn the notion of war.
My writing is based on the thoughts to share the sentiments Against War and the terrible ramifications from battles and of lives lost.

Photo Credits:
Most of the photos of the war are taken directly from the photograph exhibits on the walls of the museum by the then war journalists and renowned professionals on their assignment.
They do not belong to me.
You can find these images on the Internet when you search for Vietnam War as well.
They are for illustration purposes for the basis of my story.

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