Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (FITO Museum) - Bảo Tàng Y Học Cổ Truyền

Mmm… so Vietnam has traditional medicine just like Indonesia.  Then first thing came into my mind was then the Indonesian traditional medicine called “jamu”.  The second thing was its bitter taste! Hiks.  One of my friends used to joke and say, if she heard the word ‘bitter’; which one is bitter, that taste or your life?  Xixixi…

Oooo… rupanya Vietnam juga punya jamu, LOL. Pertama kali saya tahu kalau ada museum obat tradisional Vietnam, pikiran saya langsung melayang ke jamu. Hal kedua yang ada dipikiran saya adalah jamu identik dengan rasa pahit! Kalau ingat becandaan teman saya, kalau dia dengar kata pahit pasti dia komentar; lebih pahit mana sama hidupmu? Wakakak…

Herbs (Jamu) at the Museum

In Indonesia, jamu is predominantly herbal medicine made from natural materials, such as parts of plants such as roots, leaves and bark and fruit. There is also material from the bodies of animals, such as bile of goat or alligator used.  In many large cities jamu herbal medicine is sold on the street by hawkers carry a refreshing drink, usually bitter but sweetened with honey.  Herbal medicine is also produced in factories by large companies and sold at various drug stores in sachet packaging.  Source:

In one Saturday morning, I managed to drag my Indonesian girl friend who works in Saigon to wake up in the morning and visit this museum!  We are the tourists in our own city.

FITO Museum

FITO Museum

I found out about this museum from hotel’s flyer.  It is interesting to know that this museum existed since 2003 and is open for public since a few years ago.

The museum is located in 41 Hoàng Dư Khương Street, Ward 12, District 10, in the junction between Cao Thắng and Lê Hồng Phong.  It is a 5 storey building which exterior part does not look very old, a contrast view in the interior.

Museum Building

The tour is well organized.  Brochures are available in Vietnamese, English, French and Japanese language.  After having paid the entrance ticket, we were asked to wait for the tour guide.   Hoa, our English tour guide explained that there are two guides available in this museum, one speaks Vietnamese and one speaks English.  By the way, in Vietnamese language, Hoa means flower.

The Tour

In a nice small wooden lift, we started the tour from the 5th floor.  

Fifth floor is very beautiful...

On the very top of the building, there is the model of the Cham tower and the temple of traditional medicine.  It is amazing…!  Who would have thought that there is a temple on top of the roof? 

Most of other ornaments in this museum are also gorgeous.  Hoa told us to look above, and we saw the herbs names and pics carved in the wooden ceiling.

Herbs names on the wooden roof

Other area in this floor provides information about the history of the Vietnam traditional medicine, the utensils in the pre-history, and the famous doctors in Vietnam history and there is a ‘tree’ of hundred names of doctors in Vietnam. 

Tree with doctors names
Left; this is how to prepare medicine long time ago. Right: I tried to use this utensil.

The fourth floor has collection jars of alcohol, model of the house of Chinese medicinal herbs and the utensils for preparation of traditional medicines.

Behind the table of the traditional pharmacy, acting like "Tabib"

Third floor has collection of the collection of teapots and cups, collection of utensils for weighing and grind the medicines, collection of kettles decoction and collection of jars of medicinal herbs.

Beautiful old jars

The stairs between the every floor in this building has lovely ornaments.

Stairs half outdoor from 5th to 4th floor
Stairs inside between floor

In the second floor, we watched a video of the traditional medicine.  Some scenes remind me of the Chinese Kungfu series I used to watch when I was a teenager;
  • the way the physician or ‘tabib’ examined the patients by holding the vein in the hand,
  • the wise words quoted from was a philosopher of ancient China - Lao Tzi, III-IV centuries B.C. - “The one who has the knowledge and pretends to be unknowing is the best.  The one who doesn’t have knowledge and pretends to be knowing is sick”…
  • there was a scene of a young boy bringing a bowl of medicine to an old lady whom I thought she is his grandma, isn’t it so sweet…

Some scenes from the video

The tour ended at the first floor where the pharmacy is.  It is behind the tourist reception counter.  The pharmacy sells traditional/herbal medicine produced by FITO Pharmacy.  We were served with warm mushroom tea.  There is always the first time for everything… and it was my first time having such tea which I wouldn’t know it’s mushroom if I wasn’t told.  It tastes just like herbal tea.

My personal view, this museum should be included in “the places must be visited” in Saigon.

Old medicine advertisement

Official website of the museum:

See the packages of herbs & beautiful ornaments behind me

Jamu Kunir Asam (turmeric acid jamu)

I was probably 13 years old when I drank Indonesian traditional jamu for the very first time.  My mom said that I had to drink jamu kunir asam during my period.  It is a good anticipation for PMS (pre-menstruation syndrome).  Also, she said that it is good supaya badan tidak melar, karena biasanya setelah menstuasi badan perempuan langsung melar.  According to my mom, girl body often gets bloated after puberty.  As anticipation, she asked me to consume jamu kunir asam (tumeric acid) or jamu beras kencur (galingal rice).  It was not an enjoyable experience to drink turmeric acid.  I tried to find excuses of not drinking it, but the tale of getting bloated worried me.  What could I do, I added much honey in my jamu…

After years, perhaps my mom is right, I am not so much bloated, I think….  Thanks to jamu kunir asam.