Out in the suburbs of Hanoi on Nguyen Van Huyen, a couple of kilometres west of West Lake, the Museum of Ethnology is a bit of a way out, and best visited with a rented vehicle, although it more than repays the effort, particularly if you’ll be visiting any of the minority areas. Spread across two floors, the displays are well presented and there’s a fair amount of information in English on all the major ethnic groups. Musical instruments, games, traditional dress and other domestic items that fill the displays are brought to life through musical recordings, photos and plenty of life-size models, as well as captivating videos of festivals and shamanistic rites. This wealth of creativity amply illustrates some of the difficulties ethnologists are up against – the museum also acts as a research institute charged with producing ethnologies for Vietnam’s 54 main groups plus their confusion of sub-groups. The grounds contain a collection of minority houses relocated from all over Vietnam, dominated by a beautiful example of a Bahnar communal house.
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