Jun 30 2012
In the heart of downtown District 1, just a short walk away from some of Saigon’s other famous sights such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Post Office, Reunification Palace sits as a time capsule of the city’s past surrounded by green lawns and iron fences.
Formerly known as the Independence Palace, the Reunification Palace served as the residence and workplace of the President of South Vietnam. The grounds themselves had been the home of the Norodom Palace, the headquarters and home of the French Governors of Indochina, which was finished in 1873. Norodom served in this capacity until 1954, save for a brief period when it was occupied by Japanese World War II forces in 1945, when it was officially handed over to the prime minister of the State of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem. It was then that it was renamed the Independence Palace, which remained the building’s official title until 1962 when it was demolished after being severely damaged in a bombing. Diem ordered a new palace to be built in its place and this is the building we see today.
Completed in 1966, the new building resumed its function as home of the country’s de facto leader, now Nguyen Van Thieu, and served in this role until the iconic end of the war that the building is most famous for. On April 30, 1975, now celebrated as Reunification Day, a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the Palace’s front gate and effectively ended the war.
It seems as if time stopped that day inside the Palace’s gates, as it has basically been left untouched since: everything inside screams of 1960s architecture, decor and indulgence, preserved for your viewing pleasure. Wandering through the halls is a little creepy, like walking through a mausoleum for the Thunderbirds, but some of the rooms are pretty interesting, with wild carpets and old taxidermy. The basement of the building, a concrete maze of war rooms, and the roof, which offers a great view of the surrounding grounds, are two of the Palace’s must-see spots.
For those not looking for a blast from the past, the grounds of the Palace happen to be one of the more peaceful spots for a stroll in Ho Chi Minh City. The area is well manicured and tall trees shade a good portion. Scattered throughout the area are various war relics, including a copy of the tank that crashed through the gates and a fighter jet, which are accompanied by some written history. You can also check out the large fountain sitting right in front of the palace.
If you’re looking for a bit of war history, a glimpse into the past, or just a peaceful stroll, the Reunification Palace is well worth the 15,000 VND entry fee. You can easily breeze through the palace in an hour, which works out great if you’re trying to take a walking tour of the city. If you want to learn more about the war you’re a five-minute walk from both the War Remnants Museum and the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City. Grabbing lunch around the palace is also easy, as the area is filled with nearby restaurants, but I would recommend taking the five-minute walk to Barbecue Garden.
106 Nguyen Du St, District 1
Open daily 07:30-11:00, 13:00-16:00
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