I thought Vietnam was all about bicycles, dirt cheap goods, leaf hat, and great noodles. But then there are the palaces, museums, and rich war chronicles that I missed (except for their epic feat over the Americans, that I know).
Having no knowledge of Vietnam’s history, I entered the Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất) with no idea of what I would be seeing. Voilà. There was nothing but meeting halls occupied only by furniture. And so I reviewed my definition of palace as I might be mistaken.
According to Miss Merriam S. Webster:
pal·ace – noun ˈpa-ləs
– the official residence of a chief of state (as a monarch or a president)
– a highly decorated place for public amusement or refreshment
Now where’s the president? Or the decorations that are meant to amuse me? These are the times where I wish I loved History classes more than my PE subject and recess. So what’s the significance of this Ho Chi Minh City landmark?
*cue music: Turn Back Time by Aqua*
The original 800-seat palace was built within a 12-hectare complex with building materials mostly imported from France. However, due to a bombing attack that gravely ruined the palace, it was demolished and was rebuilt from 1962 to 1966.
The structure is also known by its many other names:
- Norodom Palace – in honor of Cambodia’s then-King Norodom (same with Norodom Street in front of the complex)
- Governor’s Palace – it served as a residence and office of all French Indochina Governors for 74 years
- Independence Palace – named as such when South Vietnam gained full control of the palace
- Dragon’s Head Palace – because feng shui says the palace is located to what’s similar with a dragon’s head
- Reunification Hall – as recognition of a peaceful pact between the South and North parties which conflict ended in 1975
Now, that explains why the palace seems abandoned as it was the former residence of the high-ranking officials. It’s a palace without a king. I just don’t like the idea that the whole building was a witness to the horror brought by opposing social causes and beliefs. Talk about differences.
On a different note, when going to the Reunification Palace from the Pham Ngu Lao area on foot, make sure that you’ll enter the palace and not one of the judicial offices of Vietnam just like what happened to us. Dang. It was really close to the palace that we thought we were in the right place taking photos when a guard shooed us away. Shameful.