Saigon's Fine Arts Museum

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A lovely colonial-era mansion turned Fine Arts Museum in Saigon.

I know Saigon is now referred to "Ho Chi Minh City" ever since Vietnam was reunited as one country, but I prefer saying "Saigon". It's pretty much just preference, but I asked as well if it was correct to refer to the city as Saigon, and even the locals themselves still use it. I like to hear it also whenever a Saigonese says it; it just sounds really nice.


A dear kindred soul told me why so many houses and establishments were painted yellow around Saigon, or in most parts of Vietnam in general.

He simply told me it's because of the weather. We all love sunlight, even for us who live in tropical countries (or at least I do!!). So when the sun's rays hit the yellow paint, it makes the whole area a lot brighter. A lot warmer, and perhaps happier.

Then when it gets old, the paint gets worn down, mosses grow on the walls, the yellow feels cheerful as ever.

So here we were, in a big yellow mansion known as the Fine Arts Museum of Saigon. It was after my friend and I came from Benh Thanh Market, and we had ample time in our hands to make room to visit one more landmark before heading back home. We chose between two museums; it was either the War Remnants museum, or the Fine Arts Museum. We chose the latter because we didn't want to get sad about the war. I figured I could just watch documentaries about it later on when I got home (which I did and got sad of course). 

The Saigon Fine Arts Museum is a grand colonial-era mansion notable for its French and Chinese architecture style. It became a museum back in 1987 then formally opened to the public in 1991. 

There are 3 levels for this building, all with wide spaces dedicated to works of art from both local and foreign artists. It wasn't airconditioned as most museums are, but still airy enough as there were lots of windows!

Ever since going to the 14 Ton That Dam building and taking a photo of the stairs, I thought of taking this detail as well. 

I particularly liked the details on the windows. I hope they continue to maintain the beauty of this place. 

Some works that I liked: 

I didn't get the name of this one, please forgive me! What interested me about this work though were the lines. 

Portrait of a Girl by Chan Dung Be Gai, oil on canvas

Working by Lam Lao Dong, watercolor

In The Forest by Trong Rung, lacquer on wood

I think this masterpiece was definitely one of the highlights here in this museum. If the National Museum here in the Philippines has the Spolarium by Juan Luna, then there's the Central South and North Spring Garden by Nguyen Gia Tri. It took him 20 years to finish this piece and he started it while the war was ongoing. It said on the description for this piece: it seemed to express his wish about the unity and happiness for the nation. 

It's worth the visit. There's much to see and learn in this place. Actually, any museum can help us visualize how life was back then, which helps us appreciate how things came to be as they are now. Strolling around here also was a nice change of scenery from the busy streets of Saigon. I mean, really busy. There weren't much people around inside while we were there, mainly because it was almost closing time. I somehow imagined how it was like before when people were getting out of the city because they knew Saigon was about to fall and places like this one were probably deserted... it definitely gave off that kind of vibe. Quite a thrill if you ask me.

It was a delight to go around a colonial building in Saigon. That's one thing off my checklist of things to see around this busy city!

It's the middle of the week, and I hope you're doing great, dear reader! 



  1. I've never been to Vietnam but it's definitely on my travel bucket list! I'd love to check out this museum!

    1. Hi Farrah! Definitely great to spend at least 2-3 hours around here to just admire the architecture and the artworks :") hope you get to swing by sometime!