Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ho Chi Minh City - Independence Palace (or Reunification Palace)

Back to my Vietnam trip after a long, long hiatus.

So, after my first stop at BenThanh market, I continued my exploration of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), walking towards my next stop, the Independence Palace, aka the Reunification Palace, with my trusty one-page map as my guide. The historic building is not too far from the Ben Thanh market, about 5 to 10 minutes of walking.

The scary number of scooters in the city

A brief history on the famous landmark of HCMC. Known as the Norodom Palace back when it was built in 1871 by the French, it switched hand in 1954 when the French withdrew from Vietnam and it became Independence Palace and served as the home of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam which was the South Vietnam.

The Independence Palace or Reunification Palace

When Vietnam was divided into two regions, namely the North (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and South Vietnam, it was a dark time in the history of the country. Civilian casualties were many as both were in the Vietnam War. Even the Independence Palace did not survive the war as the left wing of the building was bombed and completely destroyed in 1962. The Prime Minister ordered a complete reconstruction of a new palace on the same site which is the Independence Palace that we know now.

The Independence Palace was also the site of the end of the long Vietnam War, when the North Vietnamese Army tank crashed the main gates and Saigon (the now HCMC) was fallen in 1975. After welcoming ministers and presidents from around the world, becoming host to conferences and meetings, the Independence Palace has officially opened for public viewing in 1990.

Le Duan boulevard and fountain in front of the palace

The current building incorporated both the modern and oriental traditional designs. It is a massive structure with four main floors inclusive ground floor, a basement, 2 mezzanines, 1 terrace and about 100 rooms of various functions and designs. Some of these rooms are lavishly decorated, with detailed carpets and furniture, a reflection of its grandeur past.  

There are tour guides provided by the management team of the Reunification Palace and while most of them are catered to the locals, there are English speaking guides to help provide a better understanding of the history of the building. While exploring the landmark, I saw a group of Westerners with a Vietnamese guide giving a tour and I joined them to gain a better insight of the Independence Palace.

The Vietnamese guide giving a tour of the building

Here's a pictorial tour of the building. Warning, it's heavily loaded with pictures.

The banquet room

The conference hall

The President's international reception room

The Vice President's reception room

The office of the President of Republic of Vietnam

The door in President's office that leads to basement which serves as bomb shelter

The Credentials Presenting room

The First Lady's banquet room


The gambling room

The private living area of the President

The presents given to the President on display

You see the red circle on the ground? That's where the bombs landed and destroyed the left wing

The President's war room in the war shelter

The radios used during emergency

There are replicas of the air craft and tanks that were used in the attack of the Independence Palace outside the building. These reconstructed models give off a better glimpse of the era and definitely a must for those war buffs.

A replica of US F5E which bombed the palace in 8 April 1975

Replica of model 390 tank that attacked the building in 30 April 1975

On the ground floor, there is an exhibition room where photos of Vietnamese ministers meeting up with foreign countries' representatives as well as documents related to the Independence Palace are on display. 

Our Yang Di-Pertuan Agong in the Independence Palace

More photos in the exhibition room

This visit to the Independence Palace gave me a closer view as well as an in-depth understanding of the significant of the building in the Vietnamese history. I came out much enlightened (and about 100 pictures richer).


Sharing is caring. A word of advice and a piece of information.

Independence Palace or Reunification Palace is not hard to find. It is within walking distance of other major landmarks in HCMC such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office, Ben Thanh market, and so on. The entrance fee is VND 30,000 which is about RM 5.00 and the visiting hour is from 0730 to 1100 before continuing at 1300 to 1700. Ticket is inclusive of a watching a film called "Independence Palace - Witness to History" in the video room at ground floor. Some of the rooms are available for hire for meetings and banquets. For more information, click here to their official website (in Vietnamese). 

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