Vietnam Hanoi: Vietnam Military History Museum

Travel Period: 21 Sep – 28 Sep 2014

{ PREVIOUS: Ho Chi Minh’s House on Stilts }

Hanoi Day 4 Itinerary –

The Vietnam Military History Museum, set up on 17 July 1956, is one of seven national museums in Vietnam. It is situated in central Hanoi, opposite the Lenin Park and near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

“We are nearly there!” I said as I looked at the Google Maps app on my smartphone as we walked to the museum from the Temple of Literature. My words were actually unnecessary, since the museum is easy to spot due to the military vehicles displayed just behind the front gate.

The hexagonal Flag Tower was also a tell-tale sign, which is one of the iconic symbols of Hanoi.

Excitedly, we headed to the main gate to get our entrance tickets.

However, as quickly as our excitement had risen, it died down immediately because we were told that it was lunch break and we had to return after 1 pm! Well, this lunch break is commonly practiced in Vietnam so we should have expected that, though at times we were still allowed access at some places despite dropping by near noon.

Despite feeling disappointed, we didn’t let ourselves get bothered by it too much since it was part of Vietnam’s culture. We can’t expect other places to be as efficient as in Singapore too. This is something we get to learn through our experiences traveling to other countries.

Wanting to pass time, we headed to the the cafe located in the museum but accessible via a side entrance. We wanted to take a full lunch but this cafe was mainly only selling finger food. Since we still had 2 hours to spare, we decided to return to Old Quarter for our lunch instead, and we could even wash up a little back at our hotel room. Taxi fares in Hanoi ain’t too expensive (unless you are scammed by one of the unscrupulous taxi drivers — read here to see how to avoid them).

Military History Museum of Vietnam

When we returned after lunch, we got our tickets and a photography pass. (Taxi Fare from Hotel to Museum: 32K VND)

A friendly staff then suggested that we made use of one of the free lockers located just beside the ticket counter. This advice was certainly useful as we could just arm ourselves with the camera bag and enjoy walking around the large museum with less baggage.

At the outdoor display areas, Dar was immediately captivated by the military vehicles displayed in the front courtyard, which consisted of a tank and airplane. It’s great to be able to go up-close to them and take as many photos as we wished, especially when there were hardly any other visitors.

Outdoor Military Displays

Satisfied with our ‘entree’, we headed to the side of the museum buildings where the flag tower is situated. We were interested to check out the rest of the outdoor military displays there.

Large military propaganda posters were visibly placed alongside the flag tower, which gave us a nostalgic feeling on how it would have been during the Vietnamese War. We decided to skip the tower so that we could check out the military displays just beyond it first. We were excited to check those displays out, after we had already managed to catch a glimpse of some of these vehicles.

The large collection of weaponry and vehicles did not disappoint us, consisting of those originated from the Soviet and China! There was no museum staff to watch over us so we were free to tour and explore the area, occasionally getting into close contact with some of the exhibits. It’s rare to get such opportunity so we made sure we got the full experience taking photos etc.

Important Centerpiece

There were also French and US-made vehicles captured during the years of warfare, with the centerpiece being a Soviet-built MiG-21 jet fighter, standing triumphant amid the wreckage of the French aircrafts downed at Dien Bien Phu, and a US F-111.


Adjacent to the area is a terrace overlooking a rusting collection of war materials, consisting of equipment and supplies used by the soldiers.

For readers who are unaware, Singaporean men are required to take part in the National Service and be trained as soldier once they turned 18 years old, over a period of 2 or more years. As a result, I was able to share some knowledge of these military stuff with Dar, who listened attentively. Inevitably, he would be receiving training as a soldier too once he comes of age, so this place was a good learning experience for him.

When we were on our way out to another exhibit area, Dar spotted the engine of a plane and suddenly asked, “Daddy, why is there a face on the plane? What’s that mouth shape?” It took us a while before we could understand what he was referring to, and we had a good laugh when we spotted the face-like part of the plane’s wing! ^^ Kids are indeed very imaginative!

The Flag Tower

Remembering that we had skipped the Flag Tower earlier, we returned to the structure, much to Dar’s interests. He loves buildings and there’s no way we would miss this historical building (Dar would definitely complain haha).

There were some stair-climbing to do but it wasn’t too tedious, though each step was quite high for a child like Dar.

It was a memorable experience to climb up the old structure and examine the tower up-close. We also had a nice view of the museum from above.

The Indoor Museum

Having explored the outdoors, it’s time for us to retreat from the sun and check out the indoor exhibits. We discovered a floor plan and it did help us decide what were the places we would like to explore, though the structures of the museum were more complicated than we had thought.

The museum was clean and well-maintained, with numerous historical facts and photos on display. We were the only visitors and it’s kind of a surreal feeling exploring a museum this way.

Dar and I were very interested in this magnificent tank, being the highlight of the hallway. Although I was in an armored battalion during my National Service and had seen many tanks, it was still quite a view, especially for Dar.

We also came across the famous Củ Chi underground tunnels, in a miniature and cross-sectioned version to illustrate how complex the tunnels could be. The small figures displayed that were having meals at a table or sleeping in a hammock, showed how the people lived inside. It’s really amazing how much effort and planning must have been put in by the Vietnamese to create these tunnels!

Another exhibition area that caught our attention consisted of the things the inventive soldiers created using limited resources. For example, the above pair of sandals was made from rubber tires of a fallen enemy plane. With a self-made “blood-duct” tool, a physician extracted blood for the soldiers during the war. Medical equipment such as scalpel, pincers etc, were made from aircraft wreckage too.

We continued to explore the other parts of the museum, uncovering other interesting exhibits.

Outdoor Again…

Leaving the buildings from the indoor exhibits, we discovered another outdoor area with more aircraft on display. We were already feeling tired by then but still decided to check them out since we were already there.

Interestingly, we spotted some Vietnamese soldiers marching by at the outdoor display area we went earlier. It appeared that they were performing a drill for some event.

Cafe Break

Needing a rest and some finger food, we went to relax at the Highland Coffee cafe in the museum.

Cat wanted to try the Vietnam Coffee and ordered “Ice Coffee with condensed milk” (29K each). She found the coffee too bitter for her but I thought the aroma was very good. As for the snacks, we ordered some french fries which is known as “Khoai tay chien” on the menu (39K). Delicious!

There was a notice that there was free Wifi available but when we tried, it didn’t work. Fortunately, we already had the Viettel 3G SIM card so it wasn’t too much of a problem for us. 

As we left the museum after our snacks, we noticed a small park with a commanding statue of Lenin just opposite the museum. We didn’t visit it though, and headed back to the hotel to rest.

{ Next Post: Hanoi Day 5 – Hanoi To Ha Long City and Boarding }