Museum of Ethnology
We are just all about slick moves lately. Don't worry we didn't lose anything this time, but we did forget the camera's memory card at home. Without our camera or an iPhone 5s quality camera, we were at the mercy of the iPhone 5 the entire day. We apologize in advance for the not so wonderful quality of the pictures. It is the best that the iPhone 5 could do and we are grateful...because without that we would've had to be at the mercy of the iPhone 4S! Talk about grainy!
The Museum of Ethnology is a public museum exhibiting the many different ethnic groups of Vietnam. Admission is only about $1 per person and children are free.
The museum itself is not very large and there aren't many things inside, but we did learn a few things, such as how the rice paddy hats are made, how fabric is weaved from hemp, and about the initiation of the Red Yao (men) at their coming-of-age.
The kids also enjoyed seeing various models and displays around the museum, especially the ones of the different types of houses that are built by each region's ethnic groups.
There was a lot of information posted on the walls with a few pictures, but since the kids are young and can't read, their eyes started glazing over after we explained a few posters.
I was getting a bit bored myself and was a bit surprised as to why this is rated so highly on TripAdvisor as a spot to visit with children, though I guess older children or parents without kids would be able to learn a lot if they have time to read all the information that is available. Then, we realized that there is much more to the grounds, and that for us was when we found the real highlight of the museum!
Behind the museum building we found actual full size models of the various houses we had seen inside and we were allowed to go inside and check them out. Oooh...this part was a lot of fun. For most of the houses, everyone was asked to take off their shoes or wear shoe coverings as to not damage the floors, which were mainly made of bamboo. The experience reminded us a bit of the Traditional Farms in Ireland except in a much much simpler way!
We also saw a water puppet theater and learned a bit about its history:
"Water puppetry is a unique legacy of the Viet people and the Red River Delta. In water puppet performance, a puppet theater is necessary. The theater consists of a stage and a backstage area and is built on a pond. The space on the water, in front of a bamboo set, is used as the performing stage. Standing backstage in water behind a bamboo screen, puppeteers operate the puppets using a system of ropes and poles installed under water. Audiences cannot see them but the puppeteers can observe and manipulate the puppets. According to traditional rule, to keep a professional secret, no one is allowed backstage to see the puppeteers while they are performing."
We also saw some interesting wooden figures around a "communal tomb" of the Girarai people, and some beautifully dressed graduates having a photoshoot.
We had fun climbing the traditional steps into the Bahnar Communal House. The house has a total height of 19 meters (about 42 feet). According to the Bahnar, communal house is the symbol of skill and strength of the villagers.
We then visited the Ede Longhouse, which is modeled after one in Ky village. It is over 42 meters (about 138 feet) long and would have accommodated the families of daughters and granddaughters of an extended family, all of whom would sleep next to each other in the main room, except for newlyweds who could sleep in special room in the corner for a whole 3 nights. During the 1980's both Longhouses and the communal living disappeared rapidly from the Central Highlands.
So glad we realized there was an open air exhibition center and the weather was nice enough for it.
Cong Vien Nghia Do's Playground
Quite by accident, we happened to find the best playground we have seen during our stay in Hanoi at Cong Vient Nghia Do Park, which is right across the street from the museum. We were about to get inside a cab when we noticed the colorful play sets.
Entrance is free and the entire playground is covered in fake but soft grass. Visitors are asked to take shoes off before stepping on the playground. We were so happy to see that all the playground equipments were new. They even had a section with baby swings. Our kids had a blast here!
Hurray for a good, fun, and functional playground full of friendly Vietnamese mommies, daddies, and babies.