Bao Dai Summer Palace (Dinh Bao Dai) was said to be Bao Dai’s favourite among his many holiday retreats because of the good hunting on the grounds.
Hunting was a favourite pastime for the Emperor, whose legacy is that of puppet king controlled by the French and a playboy who led a lavish lifestyle.
Born Prince Nguyen Phuoc Vinh Thuy, Bao Dai was the 13th and last emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, the final dynasty of Vietnam spanning 143 years. He succeeded as emperor in 1926, and abdicated in 1945 when he was ousted by the French. He self-exiled to France in 1954, where, having spent most of his fortune, he lived a modest existence. He died in 1997 at the age of 85. Read his obituary in the New York Times.
Doing your own reading about Bao Dai will help you appreciate what you are looking at as there is not much interpretation. Located two kilometres south west of the lake, the simple building is a prime example of Art Deco architecture, a breezy building of high ceilings, big windows and doors featuring a mix of wood and concrete. There are placards throughout the building with basic (and sometimes poorly written) information. The rooms are simply furnished with what appears to be a mix of original and replacement furniture. Black and white photos are displayed, along with archive pieces in what was the Emperor’s office.
Outside there are the usual Da Lat trappings popular with domestic tourists: dressing up in Emperor costumes, photo ops on a throne or with a horse and carriage. Visit the palace if you have an extra half hour to spare or it you have an interest in history or architecture – otherwise, skip it. To enter the building you have to wear cloth booties over your shoes.
By Cindy Fan.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.