Planning your itinerary for your weekend holiday trips? Add these museums in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and more to your travel bucket list and discover the cities’ rich history, art and culture
If you’re an arty vacationer, a weekend getaway from the Lion City wouldn’t be complete without checking out these breathtaking museums in Southeast Asia. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed aesthete, a lover of fine art or an absolute culture vulture, here are some of the best museums in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and more countries in Southeast Asia that showcase plenty of must-see exhibitions to delve into.
Be inspired by Indonesia’s traditional art
Nothing represents Indonesia better than the wayang. The three-dimensional wooden puppets (Wayang Golek) and two-dimensional leather shadow puppets (Wayang Kulit) are one of the best preserved and longest-cherished art forms in the country. The puppeteer re-enacts stories dating back to Hindu times, but many of the themes remain relevant to modern Indonesian life. Did we mention? The collection here is extensive. For more brilliant things to do in Jakarta, check out Honeycombers Jakarta!
Museum Wayang Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No.27, Jakarta Barat.
Take a look at Cambodia’s largest prison
Due to the graphic nature of the museum’s history, you may want to leave the kids (and the squeamish) out of this experience. When in Phnom Penh, head to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the learn more about the country’s turbulent past, chronicling the Cambodian genocide in the late ’70s. Previously a school, the site was then converted into a prison and interrogation centre by the Khmer Rouge regime, before it was transformed into a museum showcasing displays of photographs and more to remind visitors of the dark and painful events that transpired during those years.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, St 113, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Understand the Vietnam War
One for modern history buffs – the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City discloses the brutal effects of the Vietnam War. Expect disturbing posters and photographs from My Lai Massacre, displays of US armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs, infantry weapons, as well as replicas of torture devices such as the guillotine and the ‘tiger cages’ that were used to lock up Viet Cong prisoners. Prepare to get major goosebumps.
The War Remnants Museum, 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.
Admire Islamic arts in Malaysia
Instead of travelling all the way to the Middle East, why not check out the Islamic Arts Museum right in the heart of our neighbouring city – Kuala Lumpur? Housing decorative arts from one of the world’s largest religions – which also happens to be Malaysia’s major faith – this adorned domed museum is packed with captivating displays of intricately-designed carpets, stunning jewellery, beautiful calligraphies, traditional interiors and more from around the world. Feast your eyes on a part of the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca (aka the Kiswah), the Quran, and scaled models of Islamic buildings such as the Great Mosque in Mecca and the Taj Mahal in India.
Islamic Arts Museum, Jalan Lembah Perdana, Tasik Perdana, Wilayah Persekutuan, 50480, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Visit Southeast Asia’s biggest museum in Bangkok
Visiting Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace? Add this to your Bangkok to-do list and pop by the National Museum next door! Built in 1782, the site that was once the palace of Rama I’s viceroy, Wang Na, is now a museum showcasing three permanent exhibitions that display a plethora of impressive Thai art, artifacts, well-preserved murals and one of the most revered images of Buddha, Phra Phuttha Sihing. You’ll also find relics of the country’s rich history, including key events and figures from the eras of Sukhothai and Ayuthaya.
Bangkok National Museum, 4 Th Na Phra That, Bangkok, Thailand.
Dig deeper into the Philippine’s culture and history
Smack in the heart of Manila’s business district, Makati City, is the must-visit Ayala Museum. Witness the country’s largest collection of rare and priceless cultural and historical treasures, including paintings by artists such as Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo and Fernando Zobel. You’ll also spot artifacts like tools, weapons, musical instruments, clothes, body ornaments and objects used in rituals by the Filipino minority communities.
Ayala Museum, Greenbelt 4, Ayala Centre, Manila, Philippines.
Learn about Peranakan culture in Singapore
Did you know that the Peranakan Museum located along Armenian Street in Singapore is the only museum in the world that is dedicated to the vibrant culture of Straits Chinese descendants? Located in a quaint three-storey Peranakan shophouse, the sister museum to the Asian Civilisations Museum – also first of its kind in the world – showcases collections of Peranakan items including traditional dresses, dining porcelain, jewellery, furniture and art. Go on and get a glimpse into the grand lifestyle of this prominent community – or if you’re more curious about its food culture, check out these Peranakan restaurants in Singapore
Peranakan Museum, 39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941.
Planning your next long weekend vacay? Take a short trip to these Southeast Asian holiday destinations, stay at these luxury hotels or glamping sites, and check out this nifty travel (and weather) guide!