When it comes to the regions arts, culture, and history it seems it is the grisly past that appeals the most to Asean visitors. The regions two most popular museums being testimony to war, pain, death, and destruction.
According to a list of the world’s ‘top’ 25 museums compiled by TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice, Vietnam’s War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is Asean’s most popular museum, ranked 10th globally, while the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia is ranked 21st.
Established in 1975, the War Remnants Museum — originally named the Exhibition House for U.S. and Puppet Crimes and then the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression in 1990 — was originally housed in the former United States Information Agency building.
Today the modern, air-conditioned War Remnants Museum comprises a series of themed rooms occupying several buildings, in addition to a courtyard containing larger military items such as helicopters, tanks, artillery pieces, and air planes.
Equipment and displays span events from the First Indochina War between 1946 and 1954, known in Vietnam as the Anti-French Resistance War, and the Second Indochina War from 1955 to 1974, known in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America.
The museum preserves in excess of 20,000 documents, exhibits, and films. More than 1,500 of them are regularly used to introduce eight thematic exhibitions.
Foreigners & locals pay the same
|A look inside Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with an S21 Survivor Video ICS Travel Group|
Over the last 35-years more than 15 million domestic and foreign visitors have toured the facility, with some 500,000 people passing through its doors annually.
Located at No. 28 Vo Van Tan Street in Ward 6, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, the Ho Chi Minh City War Remnants Museum is a must-see for anyone who wants to gain a little understanding of Vietnam’s history.
Unlike Thailand where dual-pricing at attractions such this is normal, there is no such discrimination here. Vietnamese or foreigners both pay VND40,000 (about US$2) per person.
Students, armed forces members, veterans, and senior officials of the revolution receive a 50 per cent discount, while war invalids and martyrs’ families, children under 6-years-old, and children from remote areas enter free of charge.
Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Meanwhile in Cambodia, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in the capital Phnom Penh, ranked 21 on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice world’s ‘top’ 25 museums.
Built and operated as Chao Ponhea Yat High School before being converted into Security Prison 21 (S-21) in 1976 by the Khmer Rouge, an estimated 20,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng up until 1979, with up to 1,500 detained at any one time. The majority did not come out alive.
Officially termed a re-education centre, its bloody and brutal interrogation and torture secrets were not revealed until Vietnam forces liberated Cambodia. In 1980 the former prison-cum-torture-centre was reopened as a museum in memory of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Visitors can walk through the classrooms where steel bed frames and crude generators were used to torture people into confessing the crimes and offences they had been accused of.
Similarly, the crudely constructed cells, some made from timber and others from crude brickwork, where the detainees were held can be viewed and entered. And yes, those are real blood stains from the former inhabitants you are seeing on the floor, along with the scratches made in the walls by their finger nails.
Also on display are the tools of torture used, paintings, and photographs — including those taken by a Vietnamese photographer who documented what he saw when the prison was liberated.
Located on Street 113, at the corner of Street 350, BKK1, Phnom Penh, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum is open from 7:30am to 5pm daily.
The entry fee for foreigners is $5, with a $3 charge for an audio headset tour. Appropriately, Cambodian citizens can visit for free, but are charged $1 for the audio tour.
Feature video: Dale Philip
She commenced as an intern at AEC News Today and was appointed as a junior writer/ trainee journalist on April 2, 2018