Ho Chi Minh city’s Reunification Palace used to be the official residence of the Presidents of the former South Vietnam government but is now a museum and also used for special events.
Historically, it’s important because it was here that the American war ended on April 30 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates, entering the grounds and forcing the South Vietnamese president to resign. That’s why it’s called the reunification palace because it was then that, finally, North and South Vietnam became one nation.
The original palace was built by the French in the nineteenth century, was called Norodom and looked like this:
In 1962 two pilots from South Vietnam’s air force, instead of going on a raid against the Việt Cộng, mutinied and bombed the palace as an assassination attempt against president Diệm. The president escaped the attempt (he was eventually killed in 1963) but the west wing of the palace was destroyed
Diệm ordered the old palace’s complete demolition and commissioned a new one which was designed by Ngô Viết Thụ, an internationally-awarded Vietnamese architect.
The palace is a great example of early sixties architecture and ranks among the best I’ve seen from that era. I really loved the sense of space and the opulence (most of the building material was imported from France).
Entering the building is like a time-warp: with a few exceptions everything is as it was when the North Vietnamese captured it. It’s a wonder (and a credit) that the winning side didn’t destroy or damage or disband the palace, which stands as testimony to a former era in Vietnamese history.
During my visit I saw the private quarters:
The conference and presidential receiving rooms,
The telecommunications center and war rooms in the undergound bunker:
The palace grounds are very beautiful and contain some really ancient trees.
In the afternoon I visited yet another of HCMC’s many swimming pools. This one was definitely the largest and was attached to a sports centre complex. There’s no reason to have to bear the heat with these great pools all over the city…