When a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the front gates of the Independence Palace in Saigon, the Vietnam War had essentially been lost. After the war, it was named the Reunification Palace and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh city.
Today’s Reunification Palace sits on the grounds of the old French Governor’s Palace. The original was built in the late 1800s when Vietnam was still a colony of France. Fast forward to 1962 and France was withdrawn from the country and Vietnam is divided. Two pilots rebelled against the government and bombed the palace in an attempt to assassinate the President. The plot failed, but they managed to destroy half the palace.
The building was going to be nearly impossible to restore, so then President Diem ordered the old colonial structure demolished and a new modern building built in its place. This would be the new Independence Palace or the Reunification Palace that I would be visiting on this day.
Entering the palace is like stepping back in time to the 1970s. I’m not sure if the décor and furnishings were the original or just incredibly well-done replicas, but it seemed like the palace hadn’t been touched since the end of the war.
I used a map to follow a self-guided tour through the building. The first floor mainly housed a large conference room and banquet hall.
The next floor was all business and had several large opulent spaces where the President and Vice-President of South Vietnam had their offices and would meet with visiting officials and heads of state. The office space was in the center of the building with wall to ceiling glass walls, letting in a lot of light from the hallways and full-length windows that encircled the floor.
The President’s Office and adjoining war room where he oversaw the war.
The Vice President’s Office.
Some of the other offices and meeting areas.
On the next floor, the tour takes you through the residence. It’s a large block of rooms surrounding an inner courtyard with a fountain area.
You can walk through one of the bedrooms on your way. Straight out of the 60s and 70s. Love the old TV set.
If the second floor was all business, the third floor was all fun. It has a large game room they used for relaxing and entertaining as well as a movie theater.
A helipad was just outside the door to let the President and his family come and go by air. Or make an escape as needed.
The final level was the rooftop terrace which was complete with a lounge bar. Apparently, it was meant as an area for quiet contemplation, but the President decided to turn it into another spot for entertaining and added a bar and piano.
A few more shots from the roof.
After the roof, the tour takes you all the way down to the basement which was a secure communication facility for running the Vietnam War. It is filled with vintage era communications equipment.
With the Reunification Palace tour over, I head back outside past the Presidential limo, shooting range, and Army Jeep.
On the grounds, they have an old South Vietnamese Airforce jet like the one used in a second attempt to bomb the palace by rebels during the Vietnam War. This attempt was not successful.
You can see they put a black ‘X’ over the U.S. emblem and South Vietnamese flag, I guess they are still bitter about the whole “Resistance War Against America.”
In the front of the palace are several tanks that infamously crashed through the gate on that fateful day, signaling the end of the South Vietnamese resistance against the North.
I really enjoyed my tour of the Reunification Palace and it should be a “must see” attraction for anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City.