The Reunification Palace has stayed in the minds of many generations not only among the Vietnam locals but among many foreigners as well. It has been known to stand witness to two historical and fierce wars against the French and the Americans, making it a building most notable for its symbolic role.
The palace was built on the site of the previous Norodom Palace. During the late 19th Century up to 1954, the palace was used as an office for the Governor of Cochinchina before it was handed over to Viet Minh in 1954. It was then consequently given as the home of former President Ngo Dinh Diem who was a US-supported leader of Vietnam, up until his assassination in 1962.
A fresh design of the building was then designed by architect Ngo Viet Thru, one of the most talented architects of Vietnam. The new and improved building was constructed on the same site and completed by 1966, making it one of the most well known landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City.
When Vietnam was split into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, the building became the residence and workplace of the then-president. Since its construction, the palace has gone through several renovations as most of the work was done from 1962 to 1963. Because of such renovations, the president had to move his office temporarily to Gia Long Palace, which is now the current location of the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
Much political turbulence has come and gone along with several past Presidents of South Vietnam. But despite many such occurrences, the previously known Dinh Doc Lap (which means Independence Palace) always stood erect. Under the Saigon City regime, the building was popularly known as the symbol of the power of the South Vietnam government. On April 30 of 1975, a tank of the Liberation forces crashed into the palace’s iron gates, marking the end of the regime.
Surrounded by immense lawns and huge trees, the Saigon palace is built on a huge block of 12 hectares that borders four streets. Its front facade looks typical of the 1960s with its modern architecture. The complex possesses a stunning guest chamber with a garden and square. From its initial design all the way up to its method of construction, much of it is influenced by French architecture.
Access to the palace was strictly prohibited before 1975. Today, the palace is open to the public daily from 8 to 4 in the afternoon making it a famous tourist attraction of HCMC. The tank that crushed its front gates can still be seen at its front lawn, making even the lawn a historical place to visit. The beautiful palace is still intact and is now preserved as a museum where photos of the different accounts in history are on display. Visitors will get to tour the palace’s private quarters, entertainment lounges, dining rooms and even the president’s office. Entrance fees are VND 20,000. For English-speaking travelers, guided tours are available upon request.
The Reunification Palace is one of the most fascinating places to see in Ho Chi Minh City. Its mere gates bring back an image of the Northern Vietnamese tank that collapsed its gates, demanding the end of the war. Certainly, that one crash was a unifying act that played a great part in the currently acknowledged significance of the Reunification Palace.