Why it’s worth visiting the FITO Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

We found the FITO Museum on our third visit to Ho Chi Minh City. We did wonder why it took us so long to discover this little gem?

Our first visit was more about the war museums and trying to learn something about Vietnam’s history. Which we morbidly achieved.

The second was to explore some famous landmarks, which we achieved too.

This time round though, we were looking for a unique experience that we hadn’t found on social media. Did we achieve this?

What is an Airbnb in Ho Chi Minh City like?

We sure did and it was an interesting journey of discovery!

How we found the FITO Museum

 Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history of Vietnamese medicine

We were staying in an Airbnb in district 10 and knew nothing of the area. So, we did what we usually do. When in doubt, Google Map it, and that’s what we did.

The intention was to find a specific ATM in the area. Instead we found a listing for something called the FITO Museum. This had us intrigued so we investigated it further.

I’m not a healing or medicine nut at all. The idea that medicine stems from centuries of brave people trying all sorts of plants, barks and leaves fascinates me and so did this.

It didn’t take us long to decide that we had to go see it.

The basics

There are two museums to choose from.

The first is, the FITO Museum covering traditional Vietnamese medicine (the one we went to).

The second is, the FITO Museum covering the history of traditional Vietnamese pharmacies

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese Medicine

In case you’re wondering, the ‘FITO’ isn’t an acronym, but rather a play on the Greek work ‘phyto’ which means plant or relating to plant.  Clever really!

Both are privately owned by one family with a passion for preserving traditional Vietnamese medicine.

You can go through the museum on your own or take up one of the tours. We recommend the tour and here’s why.

Your tour guide will likely be one of the family members which is awesome!

That means you get a first-hand account of what goes into this museum. Not to mention the nitty gritty behind-the-scenes tit-bits you wouldn’t get anywhere else. It makes for a genuinely fun experience.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese medicine

If you opt for the tour, set aside about two hours for the whole experience. This also includes the complimentary tea at the end.

If tours aren’t your thing, you can still go through the museum on your own.  There are small plaques with descriptions but they don’t give you the whole story.  This is a good option if your short on time as you could zip through it a lot faster than the tour.

But where’s the fun in that?

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese medicine

The FITO museum consists of four floors. Each jammed packed with interesting historical info and relics. There is an elevator for use or you can mill between the floors using the stairs.

The museum is family friendly too. We’d recommend leaving the stroller (pram), at the entrance or home as it can get tight in some of the smaller rooms.

What did we think of the FITO Museum?

As we said before, this was an awesome experience for us. We’ve never seen anything like this before. Something that is becoming harder to find on our travels.

Also, it was interesting to learn about something completely different too. How many people think to learn about traditional medicine while on holiday?

The FITO museum has some cool stuff too

The skeleton of the museum consists on an authentic healer’s house originally from Hanoi.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese Medicine

The most amazing part about a healer’s house was that every detail had a reason or meaning behind it.

The details in this one are exquisite. The support structures featured beautiful hand carved wood and intricate inlays of nacre.  Even the roof tiles had delicate stamps on their backs. Each stamp depicting a flower relating to one of the four seasons. Each tile seated in the correct placement in accordance with its season.

Small things are everywhere

The FITO Museum is home to thousands of artifacts, herbs and plants. Some pieces dating back to the stone age!  Can you imagine that?

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history of Vietnamese medicine

Every floor tells a story too. There is even a replica of a traditional pharmacy in all it’s original detail. You can dress up in traditional garments and take photos. Or if you’re super keen you can try your hand at cutting and grinding some dried herbs using traditional tools.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese medicine

The botanical library in this museum is gorgeous. Each specimen painted in great detail, listing both its scientific and common names.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history of Vietnamese medicine

The best part was picking the guide’s brain. We could ask him about any of plants and he was be able to tell us where it’s from, what it’s used for and in what form it’s dispensed.

Smelling tea

Special mention also goes to sniffing the giant jars of herbal teas. Not the kind you buy in the supermarket either. These were actual herbal teas to treat ailments or just boost the immune or keep up your good health.

We were expecting them to smell rank. Much to our surprise they had very pleasant aromas and we had to wondering what they taste like. Unfortunately that option wasn’t available to us, but had it been, we would have been first in line to try them.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese medicine

You herbed it here 

The room containing hundreds of jars of herbs was fascinating. Each jar displaying it’s name, use and dangers. Yup, some can be if used wrong.

Echinacea for example is actually poisonous. Who knew?! Hence why it is carefully prescribed and only under the right circumstances. That one had us thinking about supermarket varieties for sure!

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese medicine

We were also fascinated to learn the process behind becoming a doctor in Vietnam.

Most students opt learn both Western and Vietnamese medicine. While Western medicine takes four years, Vietnamese medicine takes an extra five years! This room was the reason why.  Can you imagine having the ability to know about the healing properties of hundreds of plants off by heart? Not to mention what it takes to get to that point? Hats off to those who master the technique!

Nice finishing touch

At the end of the tour we received a complimentary cup of lingzhi tea. It’s made from this large red, highly sought-after mushroom with the same name which is strangely found in the Americas.

It’s meant to support both your immune system and cardiovascular health.  It also has a long list of other benefits too but I can’t remember them all.

It  tasted all right  and much like one would imagine mushroom steeped water tasting like. Would we have it again?  Probably not, but there are thousands who would.

Have you tried lingzhi tea before?  Want to share your experience with us?

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City FITO Museum history Vietnamese medicine

Cost

To get into the FITO Museum, you need to buy a ticket at the counter on the ground floor.

Adult tickets are VND120,000 (~USD 5.00 / ~AUD7.00) and for kids (less than 1.2m in height) it’s VND60,000 (~USD2.50 / ~AUD3.50).

This might seem a little steep for a 2-hour visit, be we thought it was value for what you got from the experience.

There is also a good selection of traditional medicines and books for sale on the ground floor.

The books looked interesting but they only had Vietnamese copies on the day so we didn’t buy it. Shame really, as it would have made a great addition to the travel collection back home.

Would we recommend the FITO Museum?

Absolutely. It’s an unconventional attraction but fun and interactive if you want it to be. Plus, you get to see real books on ancient healing methods, cool relics and learn a kick-ass story at the same time. (That’s Tash’s history geek coming out, LOL)

That’s a brief on our visit to FITO Museum. I could tell you so much more about it but don’t want to give away all the fun. If you want to know more, go and visit it, it’s fun!

If you want to learn more about our other experiences, then head on over to the Our Two Cents page, where we tell you all about our adventures. Or if you want to see what we get up to, then check out our Leon and Tash channel.

Thanks for reading all about our visit and we look forward to seeing you in the next post…