On the corner of Tran Quang Khai and Trang Tien Streets in Hanoi, just to the north of the Opera House, sits Vietnam’s Museum of the Revolution. Until it closed a few years ago, the bia hoi (fresh beer) restaurant that leased a corner of the museum’s expansive grounds was the main reason people came to the site. Today, only the odd school group or particularly hardy traveler ever ventures inside, where they are treated to an exhaustive and highly didactic account of the struggle to overthrow French colonialism, defeat American imperialism, and build today’s socialist republic. No doubt a few visitors appreciate the irony that only a stone’s throw away, the children of Vietnam’s revolutionaries can enjoy champagne brunch at the renovated Métropole hotel, or shop for Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Jaeger-LeCoultre at the district’s many upscale shops. Even fewer would understand the symbolism of housing the museum in the former headquarters of one of the colonial regime’s most hated institutions, the Department of Customs and Monopolies....
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