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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

N Vietnam 2012 - Day 4, Part 3 - Fine Arts Museum

N Vietnam 2012
Day 4 - 27th May - Fine Arts Museum
(Part 3)

I then went to the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.

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Museum plaque. "Musée des Beaux-Arts"

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Museum Building, a blend of Vietnamese and Colonial architecture

Unfortunately, I have discovered that many of the works inside may be fakes:

Legacy of War - Fake Work at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum - NYTimes.com: "Even the director of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum here doesn’t know how many of the artworks and artifacts under his care are genuine and how many are extremely skillful copies. But he says he is going to try to find out"

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Wrong conjugation of the Imperative

Supposedly, no photos could be taken inside. By this time I was suffering from my usual SEA travel complaints, and didn't feel like playing games. The feeble air conditioning did not help lift my spirits (half the time I was fanning myself). A lot of the work was also similar to what I'd seen before, or uninspiring.

However, I came to a room with very nice painted wood statues, which were really vibrant (i.e. almost certainly restored) and quite different from what I'd seen previously in the museum. More importantly, the air conditioning was good, which energised me.

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Sangka Yashela

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Buddha on Snowy Mountain

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Misamta, Parcva
The latter seems to be a less known Buddhist figure, and the former a typi

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On the Tay Son period. Sadly the eponymous dynasty only lasted 14 years.

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Buddhanandi

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Buddha on Snow Mountain
He looks like he's dying. I couldn't find much information on this scene - apparently once he went to the Snow Mountains and ate really poorly (one sesame seed and one grain of wheat a day)

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King Ly Nam De and Queen

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Roc King

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Buddha

I then came across an "Opinion Box". Given that I'd only seen part of the museum I wasn't that well-placed to give mine (this was not the best location for such a box), but I did so anyway since I wouldn't be able to do it at the end of my visit, since it would end somewhere else.

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"Opinion Box"

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Feedback from a Spanish teacher. This confused me as the remarks were written in English (there was an English feedback form too). Note also that this person thinks outside the box, creating a new one ("moyen" - "middling").

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My feedback. Wherein I gave my opinion on Vietnamese art. They asked if the map was accurate. Hah.

Then was the paintings and other more contemporary art. As expected the 20th century art was blah.

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Two Young Girls
Apparently it's a grave insult to call a Vietnamese woman tanned (one reason their Ao Dais cover so much of their bodies).

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Young girl combing hair
Des mamelles roses. Vraiment ???

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The Effect of Wine
Presumably on the artist

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Sabotage at Phu Phong
I don't know why there's German graffiti

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Reunification of North and South

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This looks innocuous. Perhaps a woman performing household chores. However it's actually entitled "Sharpenning the bamboo spikes"

I sat down on a bench to rest and an American guy asked me if I was at the museum for school. I said I was on vacation and he was surprised that my idea of a vacation involved going to a museum and taking notes. Of course, his wife had dragged him there.

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"Taking a course, 'Uncle Ho Language'"
???

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Cavorting with Western Imperialists/Racial Harmony

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Asian Women Unite
Notice the orientation towards East rather than Southeast Asia. So much for ASEAN Pride.

There was an amusing panel about modern Vietnamese art:

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This doesn't condemn the Reactionary, Bourgeois influences that have crept into Vietnamese art since 1986. And tacitly admits that before 1986 there was no vitality or democratisation in Vietnamese art.

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Manuring rice roots

The paintings were mostly 20th century art. If not for Socialist Influence (at least keeping art approximating reality) they'd have had to call it a Musée des Laids-Arts (Ugly Arts Museum).

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Tran Thi Ly/Lady with Keloids

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Flowers of the Sea
I'd have liked it better if the birds had been doves

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The water from the source
When you drink water, remember whose cigarette smoke pollutes it

Having finished the main building, I returned to stuff I hadn't been in the mood to snap earlier.

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Young girl

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Scene of Everyday Life

As you can see, in many of the carved items, the proportions were wrong. The humans inside looked as if they suffered from birth defects (e.g. long faces), even though the items dated from the 16th-18th centuries. Tellingly, these were items without much Chinese influence.

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1,000 Eyed and Armed Guan Yin

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Young Girl attending to an Immortal

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Majucri Bodhisattva
This should be "Manjusri". Stupid typos.

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Queen Trinh Thi Ngoc Truc

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Duke Nguyen The My

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Duke Nguyen The My's wife

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Guardians

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Musician riding on a bird

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Dancer

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Pagoda (presumably that's what the Vietnamese translates to)

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Lion

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Dancer

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"Garuda beat the drum"

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Devil's head (part of a pedestal)

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Mandarin Duck

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Lion

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Someone had sneakily mixed up the numbering. Luckily I knew how to tell a Lion from a Mandarin Duck. And apparently "Mandarin Duck" in French is not "Canard Mandarin"

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"Diamond". The French is more correct: "Vajrapani" (Vajrapani means "Diamond in the hand" but names don't translate that way). Actually in general the French signs were more accurate.

One womam was happily taking pictures and the staff didn't care. Hah.

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Steps

Next was the building housing "Applied and Decorative Arts". I've never liked "Applied and Decorative Arts", because that's just a fancy way of calling everyday items art. Nonetheless, I was very impressed by this wing for 2 reasons: the airconditioning was strong, and they had adaptive lighting (lights which started off dim and brightened when you approached an exhibit). This let them preserve and showcase their items at the same time. And save electricity too.

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On Vietnamese Applied Decorative Arts

I wasn't really interested so I quickly moved on to other paintings.

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God of Stars

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Five Tigers

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Four Palaces

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White Tiger

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The Forest and Mountain Goddess

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The toad representing a private school teacher

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Mice's wedding

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Carp beholding the moon
This one seems more Japanese to me than Chinese

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Apparently the Vietnamese national spirit is naive (of course it doesn't quite mean the same thing in French)

There was some Vietnamese pottery in the basement but it wasn't very different from what I'd seen before (or very nice) so I skipped it.

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No access to "the ancient ceramic and porcelain collection excavated in Vietnamese seas"

There was a strong smell around here. This came from:

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Thai Basil. Preparation for lunch presumably

I saw an old woman in an outfit an ah ngn in Singapore would wear (the blouse and trousers, with that kind of dowdy pattern). She had a normal mask over her face, and not a bra cup. Maybe she'd given up.

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"Tip Box" at hostel
On reflection I should've tipped: this was the best service I'd ever gotten

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Fashion for amputees and people with artificial limbs

For lunch I had Bahn My again.

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Bahn My stall

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It was quite crusty. At the start, anyway (the humidity ruins everything). There were what seemed to be large chunks of lard inside though. I didn't like that bit.

The taxi driver for the journey to the airport asked if I had any S$2 notes and claimed that they were lucky. I was skeptical. It turns out what is lucky is US$2 notes.

Here're some gratuitous shots of bra cups covering facial orifices:

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The arch was still hideous on second viewing

Road sign: "Far from guom lake: 27km". Apparently this refers to Hoan Kiem Lake.

Place by road: "real massage of blind people". Can't they give happy endings too??? I protest this discrimination!

For some reason laser pointers are not allowed on flights. I know you're not supposed to point that at planes, but I don't see the issue from inside (unless you're aiming them at other planes).

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Door closure for Tet

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Sex sells: vietjetair.com. Interesting ad and uniform (in the second picture, does the Butterface demonstrate what they wear underneath?)

I saw a sign advertising SIM cards for 65,000 VND, confirming that I'd been thoroughly swindled on the first day (for the US$10 SIM card that stopped working after a day).

I saw a girl in a "Little Miss Sunshine" T-shirt. I suspected she was Singaporean. Later I was in the checkin queue and heard a girl say "the weather 很 horrible". Cringing, I turned around and sure enough it was her.

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A strange combiation: beach dress, backpack, shoulder bag and sandals.
I thought she was Singaporean but she had a blue passport with some non-Latin characters. At the moment the only matches I've dug up are Japan and North Korea, but I find the latter unlikely.

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Miscoordinated sign: USD 7,000 on one side and USD 5,000 on the other (I think the Dong depreciated)

After I went past passport control into the International Departures area, I noticed prices of food and souvenirs had gone up by 30-100%, and prices were now in USD and not VND. Hurr hurr.

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Snake wine. I suspect people buy bottles to display, not to drink.

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Wifi network "HorseCock" (???)

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Another demonstration of Vietnam's International Orientation

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Tiger Airlines's "Oregon Scientific i.balance negative ion bangle". There's a manufacter's warranty - if I am not "inspired towards a healthy lifestyle" and haven't unleashed my "natural charms" and so don't "look refreshed and energised", can I get a replacement?

Budget airlines were overjoyed when liquids were banned from carry-on luggage. This is especially so in developing countries, since one cannot refill water bottles after security. Since the food selection at Singapore's Budget Terminal was anemic (mainly McDonald's) and I hadn't eaten at Hanoi's airport, on the flight I tried ordering a $10 meal with my $3 drink (I suspect the flight was scheduled to coincide with meal time). It turned out they couldn't make it so I got refunded the meal. FAIL!

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It's quite sad that Changi Airport and the floating platform at Marina Bay are tourist attractions.


My favourite experience in Vietnam was on my first night at the lake. There was a Vietnamese man with long almost white hair, a beard and moustache. He was wearing a traditional Chinese outfit which looked like it was made of silk. His pants and longsleeved top were the same colour and he had black canvas shoes on. All in all, he looked like he'd stepped out of a kungfu movie

A Malaysian guy in my room on the first night had said that there was nothing much to do in Hanoi - he and what was presumably his girlfriend were in Vietnam on a 2 week graduation trip.


The Bahn My Pate cost me 20,000 VND, which was reasonable.


Wikitravel has many interesting sections on scams or petty crime in Vietnam; I'm not the only one who notices how scurrilous the country is. I think I especially like the rigged taxi meters:

"Many taxi drivers in Saigon and Hanoi install rigged meters, charging up to 2 to 8 times more. The best way to reduce your chances is by taking a taxi from reputable companies... (note that taking these companies is not a guarantee)."

I was also amused by:

"in the South many Vietnamese (especially older Vietnamese involved in the conflict or with relatives in the war) appreciate or at least respect the previous Western military efforts against the North... Do not assume that all Vietnamese think alike as many Vietnamese in the South are still bitter about having lost against the North. "
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