It was towards this building – then known as independence Palace or the Presidential Palace – That the first communist tanks to arrive in Saigon charged on the mornign 30 April 1975. After crashing through the wrongt-iron gates – in a dramatic scene recorded by photojournalists and shown around the world – a soldier ran into the building and up the stairs to unfurl a VC flag from the 4th floor balcony. In an ornate 2nd-floor reception chamber, General Minh, who had become head of state only 43 hours before, waited with his improvised cabinet. I have been waiting since early this morning to transfer power to you. ‘Minh said to the VC officer who entered the room. “ There is no question of your transferring power, replied the officer.”You cannot give up what you do not have”
Reunification Palace (Central HCMC map, Hoi Truong Thong Nhat, tel 8294117; 106 Nguyen Du str, admission 15.000d, open 7h30am – 11am & 1pm – 4pm daily is one of the most fascination sights in HCMC, both because of its striking modern architecture and ther eerie feeling you get as you walk through the deserted halls. The building, one the symbol of the south Vietnamese government, is preserved alsost as it was on that day in April 1975 when the republic of Vietnam, which hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and 58,183 Americans had died tring to save, ceased to exist. Some recent additiona include a statue of Ho Chi Minh and a viewing room where you can watch a video or Vietnamese history in a variety of languages. The national anthem is played at the end of the tape and you are expected to stand up – it would be rude not to.
In 1868 a riesidence was built on this site for the French govermor-general of Cochinchina and gradually it expanded to become Norodom Palace. When the French departed, the palace became home for south Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. So hated was Diem That his own air successful attempt to kill him. The president ordered a new residence to the built on the same site, this time with a sizeable bomb shelter in the basement. Work was completed in 1966, but Diem did not get to see his dream house because he was murdered by his own troops in 1963. The new building was named Independence Palace and was howm to south Vietnames president Nguyen Van Thieu Until his hasty departure in 1975
Norodom Palace, designed by Paris trained Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu, is an outstanding example of 1960s architecture. It has an airy and open atmosphere and its spacious chambers are tastefully decorated with the finest modern Vietnaese art and crafts. In its grandeur, the buidling feels worthy of a head of state.
The ground floor room with the boat-shaped table was often used for conferances. Upstairs, in the South Vietnamese president received foreign delegations/ He sat behind the desk; the chairs with fragons carved into the arms were used by his assistants. The chair facing the desk was reserved for forreign ambassadors./ Next door is a meeting room. The rooms with gold – coloured chairs and curtains was used by the vice president/ You can sit in the former president’s Chair and have your photo taken
In the back of the structure is the president’s living quarters. Check out the model boats, horse tails and severed elephants’s feet. On the 3rd floor there is a card playing room with a bar and a movie screening chamber. This floor also boasts a terrace with a heliport – there is still a moribund helicopter parked here. the 4th floor has a dance hall and casino.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the basement with its network of tunnels, tele-communications centre and war room.
Reunification Palace is not open to visit ors when official receptions or meeting are taking place. English-end French speaking guides are on duty during opening hours.