​Opportunity missed as Vietnamese museums close for afternoon nap

Ticket counters close at 11:00 am and the facilities turn the lights out 30 minutes later for a noon-time break

Tourists are pictured at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City at 12:00 pm one day. Tuoi Tre

Museums in Vietnam’s biggest cities tend to close for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to ‘take an afternoon nap,’ which industry insiders say will disappoint tourists and spurn the museum’s opportunity to attract more visitors.

At 11:00 am recently, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper correspondent followed a group of tourists to the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City, only to be told by the security guard that the ticket counter was closed.

“We will close [the museum] at 11:30 am,” the guard said. “You can come back at 1:30 pm.”

Even visitors already inside the museum are unable to continue their visit once ‘golden time’ comes.

One Tuoi Tre reader said that he and his foreign guests were admiring some Cham sculptures inside the facility the other day, when all the lights went out at 11:30 am, indicating that it was time for the museum’s noon-time nap.

The visitors had no choice but leave the museum disappointed.

A visitor looks at exhibits at the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City.
A visitor looks at exhibits at the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City.

That many Vietnamese museums temporarily close for an ‘afternoon nap’ is nothing new to tourism industry insiders.

According to several travel firms, many museums following the trend are well known, including the Reunification Palace and the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City, the National Museum of Vietnamese History, and the Hanoi Museum.

Industry insiders said that museums closing for an afternoon nap is unique to Vietnam, as most international museums apply a no noon-break policy.

A director of one museum in Ho Chi Minh City argued that unlike other countries, the weather tends to be hot in Vietnam during midday, so “taking an afternoon nap is a real and reasonable need.”

He said the noon break is also a window for cleaning the museum after the morning shift, adding that opening during noon time will result in more power and labor costs.

Some museum operators have even fought back by saying that travel firms complain without any research or study, and question whether tourists would visit museums during noon time.

Bucking the trend, several museums have no noon-time break, including the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Vietnam Fine Arts Museum and Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi; the Museum of Cham Sculpture in the central city of Da Nang; and the War Remnants Museum and Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts.

Visitors are seen at the Hanoi Museum.
Visitors are seen at the Hanoi Museum.

A case in point

Nguyen Thi Bich Van, director of the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, said her facility used to take a noon break and close on Mondays, as did many other museums, and was poorly visited.

“We tried to look into the issue and realized that many tourists tend to get up late and only start their trips by 10:00 am,” Van said.

“So these late-risers will normally come to the museum later in the morning, and will surely be disappointed if they are asked to leave by 11:30 am.”

In late 2011, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum held a meeting to listen to feedback from visitors and travel firms and decided to stay open through the middle of the day and through the week, scrapping both the afternoon break and Monday closure, Van said.

“This helped increase our visitor numbers exponentially, which used to be only 50-70 guests a day,” she said.

Visitors are seen at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts.
Visitors are seen at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts.

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