An Educational Visit to the Lao National Museum in Vientiane

Laos National Museum

I had one of the best travel experiences in Laos and I admit that I still miss the humble, quiet country. Although I was smitten by the country’s scenic mountains and lovely streams, the Lao National Museum somehow failed to blow me away.

I’m not saying that the museum was awful, but I expected a national museum like it to be more organised and comprehensive.

Before I get on with my story, let me just share with you a bit about the museum and its historical background.

About the Lao National Museum

Built in 1925, the museum (with French colonial architecture) is significant to the Lao people as it was where the country’s independence was declared.

Since then the building had been used for many different purposes:

  • It used to be the Lao government headquarter and the prime minister’s office.
  • It was also where the King stayed during his visit from Luang Prabang.

The building later became the Laos Exhibition Hall of the Revolution on the 1st of December 1980. Then it was transformed into the Laos Museum of Revolution.

And since the early 2000s, the building has served as the Lao National Museum where 8,000 artefacts from across the country are kept.

Related: Exploring Laos: Going Deep Into Vieng Xai

Exploring Lao National Museum

As mentioned earlier, I wasn’t blown away by the museum. I think it’s just okay. Although it wasn’t that great, I didn’t consider it to be disappointing either.

It was still an enjoyable visit. I spent more than 2 hours in the museum. That’s not so bad, eyh?

Artefacts and History Lessons

The two-storey museum displays educational information, typically about the people’s resistance against foreign invasions. It also displays photos and artefacts related to paleontology, archaeology, history and ethnology, dating from prehistoric times to the modern day.

On the building’s ground floor, there are displays of dinosaur bones, Khmer culture and Buddha statuary.

Me at the Laos National Museum
Cultural findings

As you proceed to the upper floor, you’ll be taken through a history lesson where you’ll learn about the country’s involvement in multiple foreign invasions, such as the invasions of the Siamese, the French colonial period, the Vietnam War, and so on.

Exploring the Country’s Past

The museum also puts a lot of focus on communism, and how (and why) the ideology was introduced in the year 1975, which will explain to you why the museum was formerly known as the Lao Revolutionary Museum.

Just like the War Remnants Museum in Vietnam, the Lao National Museum emphasizes on the impacts of foreign invasions on the country and its people, especially the one about the unexploded bombs left by the American military in the countryside.

Some people dislike the museum as they find it to be overdone with anti-western propaganda. There are many photos and artefacts there that display huge disliking of the United States of America.

By just looking at the country’s war history, I can understand why the museum’s artefacts are presented the way they are.

If someone came to your country, dropped about 80 million bombs that haven’t exploded, and have you and your loved ones live in danger every day, how can you not be upset?

Negative sentiments towards foreign powers displayed through the museum’s artefacts aren’t as strong as the ones at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh, though. At least that’s what I think. I suppose it’s how the two countries’ historical information are displayed that made all the difference.

Sad History and Poverty

Many visitors find the information about the unexploded ordnance from the American war to be the most interesting. I feel the same way, too. The whole thing made me sad.

The bombs had ruined so many innocent lives even till’ this day. Since jobs are scarce, many local women from the countryside make their livings from finding and deactivating bombs. Yes, it’s a risky business. But someone has got to do it. I unequivocally think that these women are mentally strong and brave.

It’s not just about the money. These local women do it for the sake of their country. Despite their efforts, many bombs are still lingering around paddy fields, hills and local jungles. Retrieving all the bombs could take awhile.

Misspellings and Wrong Labels

Surprisingly, the museum also showcases illegal drugs such as opium and cannabis. It’s funny that the information displayed was not even accurate. I found plenty of spelling errors (such as ‘Haloin’ instead of Heroin) and wrong labels. I certainly didn’t expect that from a national museum!

Drugs in Laos National Museum
This is 50g, really?
Laos National Museum

The museum has many dated relics and the building also looks run down. Perhaps the museum authorities need to put more effort towards maintaining the building.

Cool fact: Do you know that the museum has a complete skeleton of a dinosaur that once roamed in Laos? It died 4,000 years ago. That’s amazing!

Is the Museum Worth the visit?

For the price I paid, yes, it was worth the visit. The entrance fee is only USD1.20 (10,000 Kip). Just don’t expect it to be like The Louvre.

The museum staff may tell you that you cannot bring your camera into the museum. But seriously, you might get away with it. No one seemed to be monitoring around when I was there!

Will I go there again? I guess I won’t mind! Unfortunately, the museum is permanently closed.

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The Walking Writer

An ENTP who’s always thirsty for new adventures. Apart from music and writing, I’m also passionate about travel, art and entrepreneurship.