Sunday, January 15, 2012

Vietnam 6: The Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace from inside of front gate
by  Pa Rock

The next stop on our first and only full day in Saigon was the old Presidential Palace (now called Reunification Palace).  It is where the South Vietnamese Presidents lived and worked during the Vietnam War.  It is also the sight of the iconic photos of the North Vietnamese tank crashing through the front gates in April of 1975, thus officially ending the war.

Famous gate that  North Vietnamese tank crashed through
as the symbolic end of the war (view from inside)
The final President of Vietnam had been in office only a few hours when the government fell because his two immediate predecessors had fled the country.  The poor man was sitting in his office when the North Vietnamese came bursting through the door.  He reportedly said "I have been waiting here all morning to relinquish power to you."  To which one of the victorious soldiers replied, "You cannot relinquish that which you do not have."  He was placed in a jeep and taken downtown to a radio station where he formally surrendered over the air.  The awful war was over.

Today the palace serves primarily as a museum - the country is run from the capital, Hanoi.  Our guide told us that some public functions are held at the palace - such as weddings.
Close-up of the front of the palace.

The place was not as well maintained as one would expect of a public building with so much history.  Many of the carpets were threadbare, and there was mold and mildew in evidence on many walls, particularly in the basement rooms.

A formal conference room.
The presidents' office
The back yard
Murphy and a young couple from NYC who joined our little
tour listen to information from our guide, Loc.
Loc smiles up after retrieving Murphy's glasses from
a ledge below.
A waiting room
A more formal meeting room
Presidential emergency bedroom in the basement.
Up on the roof!  Vietnamese flag in foreground.
Another rooftop view - skyscrapers of Saigon
in background,
An upcoming Palace event.

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