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Culture 101: Must-Visit Museums, Galleries & Theatres in Southeast Asia

Our top recommendations for museums, galleries and theatres in Southeast Asia to get your culture fix

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Art & Culture, Travel

Culture 101: Must-Visit Museums, Galleries & Theatres in Southeast Asia

Our top recommendations for museums, galleries and theatres in Southeast Asia to get your culture fix

Looking for an über cool art gallery in Thailand or a little bit of history in Vietnam? Or do you simply want to sit back and watch a show in Singapore? Then read on for our list of museums, galleries and theatres you must visit in Southeast Asia for that culture fix you’ve been craving.

1. War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The War Remnants Museum is one of the most popular museums in Ho Chi Minh City and the whole of Vietnam. It serves as a fitting reminder of the repercussions brought about by wars. Its exhibitions consist mostly of a large collection of photographs, weapons and wartime artifacts from the Vietnam War. The museum is also well-known for its highly-detailed and realistic displays—including replicas of prisoners in holding cells—that will give you a fresh, sobering perspective of Southeast Asian history.

Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

2. AERA Memorial Museum, Villa Escudero, Philippines

Escudero is a coconut plantation that was opened to the public in 1981 as a tourist attraction for people to experience plantation life. Today, it is a full-fledged resort with its own museum (AERA Memorial Museum), live cultural show, rural village tour as well as sports and recreational facilities. Some say the museum itself is worth the price of admission alone; when Villa Escudero was first opened to the public, the family who owns the plantation opened up its private collection of artifacts as a museum tour. The main attraction was and remains the trove of colonial religious art that dates back to the Spanish colonial era.

The varied collection also includes Oriental ceramics, costumes, household furniture and more collected during the family’s travels around the world. The extensive collection was moved in 1987 to a church (also on plantation grounds) that’s said to be a replica of a former church in Manila’s Intramuros.

Address: Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort, Tiaong, Quezon (two hours’ drive from Manila)

3. Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos

Buddha Park is a sculpture park that houses over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. You’ll be able to find sculptures of Buddha and also sculptures of characters in Hindu lore. What sets this wonderfully unique and surreal sculpture park apart is a section of the park that incorporates the two teachings—Buddha statues that bear distinctive Hindu features, such as extra arms. This was a direct result of Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a priest-shaman who integrated Buddhism and Hinduism in his teachings and who started the park in 1958.

Address: Thanon Tha Deua, Vientiane, Laos

4. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore

The Esplanade is Singapore’s national performing arts centre located in Marina Bay. Within the 60,000-square-metre complex, there is a 1,600-seater concert hall and a performing arts theatre with a capacity of 2,000. The Esplanade hosts over 3,000 internationally- and locally-brewed shows, concerts, exhibitions and theatre performances annually. There’s also a small collection of more intimate venues that hold experimental theatre shows and chamber music performances and a public library dedicated to the arts. The Esplanade itself is absolutely stunning, commanding an enviable view of the river and encased in a striking, modern building. Aesthetes should make sure to stroll by at night even if you don’t intend to go inside as it’s worth it for the architecture alone.

Address: 1 Esplanade Drive Singapore 038981

5. Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

This sombre site stands as a reminder of the years between 1975 and 1978 when about 17,000 men, women, children, and infants were transported by the Khmer Rouge to the extermination camp of Choeung Ek. The remains of close to 9,000 people were discovered here, leading to the site being turned into a memorial for the victims.

The site’s Memorial Stupa stands tall to remind us of what happened not so long ago and while you walk around, you will also see plenty of information displayed on the Khmer Rouge and what transpired in those dark years.

Address: Sangkat Cheung Aek, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

6. National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

National Art Gallery is known in Malay language as Balai Seni Visual Negara. Occupying a pyramid-shaped block, this gallery showcases modern and contemporary Malaysian art such as paintings, sculptures, batik and other works done by artists from Malaysia and all over the world. Today, this building house more than 4,000 works of art that you can appreciate and admire while you are in the city of Kuala Lumpur. Other exhibits that can be seen here are the experimental works and touring exhibitions with different themes every now and then. If you are new to art, this is a good place to see for yourself and be aware of the happenings in the creative art industry.

Address: No. 2, Jalan Temerloh, Off Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

7. Neka Art Museum, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Neka Art Museum is an art gallery and museum established by Balinese art lover, Wayan Suteja Neka. The museum boasts the most comprehensive collection of traditional and modern Balinese paintings on the island. Inside Neka Art Museum are collections of paintings and sculptures displayed through six different buildings in a Balinese-style garden compound. The pavilions include exhibits of Balinese painting from the seventeenth century to the present day, an archive of black-and-white photographs from Bali in the 1930s and 1940s and contemporary works by artists from other parts of Indonesia.

A visit to the Neka Art Museum is both a journey to the past, as well as an educational tour that enlightens the visitor with information on techniques and the history of the development of art in Bali.

Address: Jalan Raya Sanggingan Campuhan, Ubud, Bali 80571, Indonesia

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