Visit some of these museums in Asia to add spice and life to your pan-Asian travels.
Not looking your best today? Well, before going to drastic means to improve your looks, you might want to see how people have gone to extreme over the centuries – and continue some techniques today – to look their best. At the Museum of Enduring Beauty (Muzium Kecantikan) in Malacca in Malaysia displays catalogue how people worldwide interpret beauty.
The exhibition includes methods from early times of human existence such as foot-binding, a tradition in many Asian countries to make feet tiny and “more attractive” to men. The torture created odd and minuscule toes and feet, causing untold pain to the restricted women forced to endure it.
Some still on-going ways of enhancing beauty include stretching of necks by using brass neck coils, practiced nowadays by the Karen tribes, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Myanmar and Thailand, as well as the South Ndebele peoples of Africa; lip-stretching with pottery or wooden plates, as currently done by the Mursi, Chai and Tirma African tribes; and, of course, religious skin-tattooing, at least 2,000 years old and still done in Thailand and Myanmar and less in Laos and Cambodia.
Museum of Enduring Beauty is located on one floor of the larger Peoples Museum in a building formerly used for municipal purposes; it’s on the principal Jalan Kota museum strip in the UNESCO-designated Melaka Historic District. Children will love the Kites Museum as well as the Spinning Tops section.
Another visit-worthy museum in Malaysia is the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum, situated at Kuala Lumpur Airbase, the oldest base in Malaysia. The base was turned over to the RMAF after use as the country’s first international airport until Subang airport opened in 1965.
With 14 airplanes and helicopters on the airfield for kids to sit in and work the controls on, and 13 more in a hangar, kids will be thrilled to visit this place as will adults with an interest in aviation.
Displayed, and marvellously kept, aircrafts include Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer (the first aircraft acquired for the RMAF ‘s Squadron No. 1); de Havilland Dove; Grumman HU-16 Albatross; Bell 47G-5 Helicopter; McDonnell Douglas A-4 PTM Skyhawk; and Hunting Percival (Piston) Provost – along with dozens of others. There is also a Mig-29N simulator to enjoy!
Historians and general visitors will appreciate the galleries that hold exhibits detailing the RMAF’s role in quelling insurgencies, as well as the flyers’ work to bolster peacekeeping missions in former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Cambodia. A small retail shop sells aircraft models at RM195 each, in addition to other souvenirs of the base and aircrafts.
For those travelling to Vietnam and having an interest in seeing the Vietnamese perspective on the Vietnam War, the War Remnants Museum (Bao tang chung tich chien tranh) in Ho Chi Minh City is a good place to start.
Countering the biased-toward-Americans viewpoint of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., this symbolic and very graphic museum enlightens visitors on the war from a Vietnamese perspective.
This includes the ‘Requium’ photo exhibition and other displays that show how napalm bombing, Agent Orange defoliant and bombing or razing of entire villages lay waste to the countryside and its inhabitants.
Veterans and others with a strong stomach can learn more about the techniques and tools used to fight against the Americans. The brave can try entering an actual Viet Cong-dug tunnel and experience what it was like living and fighting in these narrow and often claustrophobic spaces.
One area of the grounds is devoted to the infamous South Vietnamese and French prisons on Con Son and Phu Quoc Islands. Artefacts comprise that most chilling of French killing tools, the guillotine, and the noxiously cruel ‘tiger cages’ used to house Viet Cong.
If you ever saw the wondrously wide miniature train display in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry – I visited it many times as a child and adult – you’ll be in awe seeing its Asian counterpart at the Hara Model Railway Museum in Yokohama, Japan.
Constructed over an entire lifetime, this massive working display built by miniature train collector cum afficionado, Nobutaro Hara, will impress you with its many detailed landscapes, tiny-people interactions and working one-gauge (1:32 scale) railroads. Don’t like trains? Go see it anyway, it’s that good. And when you realize one man did most of it, you’ll be even more awe-struck.
The museum also includes what is reputed to be the largest collection of train miniatures in the world. Hara’s collection includes accurate representations of trains from Japan, Europe, the United States and beyond. He filmed trains in 16mm, then reproduced cars precisely. The collection encompasses around 6,000 model train cars, 100,000 still photos and 440 hours of film.
Noodle-lovers shouldn’t miss the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda-shi, Japan. The entire place is a bow to Momofuku Ando and his efforts to create a cheap meal for destitute post-WWII Japanese. Ramen noodles were the now-famous result.
With a kitchen that allows visitors to make their own lunch, the museum is a lively honour to a timeless food, though one with questionable dietary value. If you love ramen, wear a drool-catching vest up front – you’ll need it!
- Museum of Enduring Beauty, Peoples Museum, Malacca City, Malaysia; Hours: Daily 9am – 5pm. (Closed on the first days of Aidilfitri and Aidiladha); Entry: Adult, RM3; children 6-12 years, RM2; under 5 years, free
- Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum, Kuala Lumpur Airbase, Jalan Lapangan Terbang Lama, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hours: Mon – Thurs 9am-5pm, Sat – Sun 9.30am-5pm, closed Fridays; Gift Shop Hours: Tues-Thurs 9 am-12 noon only; Entry is free for all.
- War Remnants Museum, Street 28 Ð Vo Van Tan Extras cnr Ð Le Qu, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Hours 7.30am-12 noon & 1.30 – 5 pm; Entry: 15,000 Dong
- Hara Model Railway Museum, 2F Yokohama Mitsui Building, 1-1-2 Takashima, Nishi-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa, Yokohama, Japan; Hours: 10am – 5pm (last entry 4:30 pm); closed Tuesdays (if Tuesday is a national holiday, the museum will close the day after); Entry: Adults ¥1,000; junior high and high school students: ¥700; children (four and older), ¥500
- Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, 8-25 Masumi-cho, Ikeda-shi, Osaka, Japan; Hours: 9.30am-4pm (last entry 3.30pm), closed Tuesdays (if Tuesday is a national holiday, the museum will close the day after); Entry: Free of charge