To Vietnamese culture, ao dai is a symbol as kimono to Japan or hanbok to Korea. On January 22nd, 2014, the Ao Dai museum in Ho Chi Minh city was officially opened as a result of the 10-year dream and effort of designer-artist Le Si Hoang to honor the crucial role of ao dai. Since then, the museum has established a name for itself among must-visit attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ao Dai Museum outdoor view
Located in District 9, a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City, Ao Dai Museum offers you scenic, theatrical view of rural Vietnam. Besides the bountiful paddy fields leading up to the main gate, the entire ground of Ao Dai Museum is as pretty as a picture. There’s a lotus pond with fruitful water coconut trees, various big, old trees providing shelter from Vietnam’s heat, a fresh herbs garden lying between the green grass, ducks quacking in their coop, and even a canal - where motorboats occasionally roam by. Upon visiting the museum, you’re not paying for the history lesson alone, but also an enjoyable day within the peaceful atmosphere resembling life in the Vietnamese countryside. Don’t forget to try a monkey bridge while you’re here!
Ao dai models gifted by some famous Vietnamese people
There are three main exhibitions inside the Ao Dai Museum and two extra ones.
The first, and also the largest, is an exhibition on ao dai history and ao dai from benefactors, mostly celebrated Vietnamese singers and performers. In this building, the ao dai(s) are separated on either side of a dark room.
The right aisle shows ao dai samples in chronological order, which are original designs from different periods. As you walk along the wall, you will gradually learn how the ao dai gets its alluring form nowadays, and the wonderful variations of it, such as Japanese inspired ao dai and Filipino inspired ao dai.
Ao dai for queens from the Nguyen dynasty - a replica of Nam Phuong queen’s ao dai
A lemur ao dai from the 1940s, which used to be a family heirloom preserved through the wars
The one on the left shows ao dai worn in daily life. From ao dai of Ms. Linh Nga (dancer), Ms. Cam Van (cook), to well-known singers like Ms. Bach Tuyet and Ms. Phung Ha… Aside from that, visitors get to see ao dai worn by worshippers of many religions as well.
Ao dai in religions - Christian, Buddhism, Caodaism, and Dao Mau (the worship of mother goddesses)
At the front of the first exhibition, there are two displays of an ao dai tailor’s workplace and ao dai fabrics, so visitors can get a more in-depth insight to how complicated the process of making an ao dai is.
A replica of the traditional ao dai tailor’s workplace
Various materials used in making ao dai, including voile, brocade, silk...
Keep in mind that you can’t use flash while taking photos since it may damage the quality of the fabric.
The houses are built to resemble Hoi An old town
The second exhibition inside Ao Dai Museum is about ao dai used during special occasions and Vietnamese music performances like Quan Ho folk music, Vietnamese folk opera, The Royal Refined Music of Hue (nha nhac cung dinh Hue)… and variations of the Vietnamese conical hats and wood slippers, which are both traditionally worn with ao dai.
The highlight of this exhibition is that it’s built into separate identical houses. These houses are designed to look like Hoi An old town, both on the exterior and interior, so visitors who haven’t gotten a chance to visit the charming central Vietnam city can get a preview here.
A display in one house showing types of Vietnamese conical hat and wood slippers
The last main exhibition consists of two displays, one of ao dai with Southeast Asian flags pattern and one called “brocade and flower.”
The ao dai was tailored with inspirations from Southeast Asian countries’ flags
After a tour of all the above, you’ll get to visit two smaller exhibits of Cham pottery and Vietnamese women’s undergarments throughout time. It’s an exciting add-on which many visitors love for their sheer uniqueness.
Cham pottery shown at Ao Dai Museum
Taking pictures is not allowed inside the exhibition of Vietnamese women’s undergarments
Last but not least, for those traveling with their young ones, Ao Dai Museum offers you a kids’ playground, where kids can come to draw, paint and make their ao dai lanterns.
Kids playground inside Ao Dai Museum
Address: 206/19/30 Long Thuan Street, Long Phuoc Ward, District 9
Opening hours: 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM (closed on Monday)
Ticket price: VND 100,000/person (US$ 4.5)
(Children under two years old and the disabled: free)
Ao Dai museum’s front gate is hidden at the end of a small alley
Ao Dai Museum is about 22 kilometers from District 1. Due to this unfavorable location, the travel options available are quite scarce:
This is your most economical choice, as the bus fare is only VND 6,000. However, expect to travel for approximately 2 hours.
Taxi in Ho Chi Minh City is a convenient way to travel quickly, especially when you’re not familiar with the streets. But, beware of a charge up to VND 400,000 for an hour-long ride.
This choice is ideal for those who are scared of dangerous taxi scams in Ho Chi Minh City, since you’d know the price first. All you need to do is have sufficient mobile data - 3G/4G in Vietnam and an app. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t speak English.
Or, for your convenience, book a private local guide who can show you around with safety. No more worries about getting lost, plus, you have a chance to learn about Vietnam’s culture from the fountainhead!
|To have fun trips in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our authentic motorbike tours with professional local guides!|
Having fun on a city motorbike tour with local guides
The Vietnamese Ao Dai not only preserves the cultural values but also is a historical witness. During your trip to Ho Chi Minh, if you are into fashion and traditional clothing, you should pay a visit to the Ao Dai Museum to understand more about the cultural values of Vietnamese.
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© Written by Ngan Mai and Minh Anh for itourvn.com