Situated right in the heart of district 1, the Independence Palace, or Reunification Palace, owns a very unique ambiance among other super hubbub destinations. It is a strong witness of what was happening to Saigon up until now. As for the travelers to Vietnam, it is ideal to listen to this old man telling more about Saigon’s old days.
The History of the Palace
In the First Indochina War
Due to the invasion of most of the south of Vietnam and Sihanuc’s agreement that allowed the French to present in Indochina, the French colonial government decided to build a place where their officials and the governor can live and work in Saigon. Thus, the very first building was built and named after the king – The Norodom Palace.
In the Vietnam War
However, after the defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French government was forced to sign the Geneva accords and withdrew their troops out of Vietnam. In the meantime, The U.S employed its ambitious plan to invade Vietnam again by introducing a newborn regime called the Vietnam Republic Government which was led by Ngo Dinh Diem. Soon, he became the so-called president of this regime and took over the Norodom Palace. The building back then was renamed the Independence Palace.
On 27th 1962, 2 pilots of Ngo Dinh Diem’s republic of Vietnam air force rebelled and assassinated the president by flowing 2 aircraft toward the palace and bombing them. The rebel damaged utterly the left part of the building but did not successfully kill the president and his family. After the assassination, Ngo Dinh Diem ordered to the reconstruction of the palace while his family moved to Gia Long Palace, which is the Ho Chi Minh Museum nowadays.
Over 4 years, the reconstruction finished. But once again, Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated in 1963. This time, he was not lucky anymore. It was Diem who ordered the new palace to be built but he never stayed any minute inside.
After the death of Diem, General Nguyen Van Thieu was dedicated to replacing the former president. He lived and worked in the Independence Palace from 1965 to 1975. He was known as the host of the palace for the longest time.
After Thieu, there were 2 successors who also lived in the palace for 2 weeks, and only 2 days, respectively.
After the War
On 30th April 1975, Communist North Vietnam headed to the palace and took power from the last president of the Republic of South Vietnam. Soon, the palace was renamed the Reunification Palace up until now. Nevertheless, many people still call the place Independence Palace than the current name.
How to Get There?
The palace is surrounded by the 4 streets Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Nguyen Du, Huyen Tran Cong Chua, and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. Among those, it situates on No. 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia with the main gate heading Le Duan street. Also, you can position the palace near the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, or Diamond Plaza, which is one of the first malls in Ho Chi Minh City.
To come to the Reunification Palace:
- You can hop on the bus no. 4, 6, 18.
- Many people recently love using the app like Grab, Be, Gojek to book a motorbike, or a car to go to a destination.
- In case you ride a motorbike yourself to enjoy the traffic or catch a taxi, make sure to check the direction initially.
Just note that you should enter the place via the main gate with the ticket on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia street. The gate at no. 1 Huyen Tran Cong Chua gate is for Independence Palace Cafe, the Cafe 30/4. It’s just for locals to get in. Foreigners aren’t allowed to access due to security and tourist reasons.
Independence Palace Opening Times and Entrance Fee?
The palace opens for visitors throughout a year, including Tet, or any festivals. The opening times are from 8:00 to 17:30. Within that, ticket selling times are from 8:00 to 16:00.
You can buy it at the main gate. Normally, entrance ticket costs you:
- Adult – VND 40,000/person
- Student – VND 20,000/person
- Children – VND 10,000/person
In addition, the palace also supports foreigners to understand clearly the historical site via audio which is translated into 6 languages such as English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, French, and Vietnamese. You can get this service at the audio guide when entering the place. Remember, ticket price doesn’t include the audio guide service, so you need to pay more if you want to get to know more about the palace.
The Subtle Secrets Behind the Independence Palace Architecture
The palace was designed by the architect Ngo Viet Thu, who used to study architecture at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and won the first Grand Prize of Rome in 1955. As for the design, The building has 4 floors and 1 basement in total. The building is renowned as a masterpiece where Asian and western arts mix together.
A Secret at the Facade
On the facade of the palace, the independent palace can be seen in 6 Chinese characters relevant to each floor.
- If the terrace is on the 4th floor, it comes to the 口 character, which means “the mouth”.
- When the terrace and the 4th-floor combine with the flag pole in the middle, you can see the 中 character, it means loyalty.
- If 3 floors go with the flag pole, it comes to the 王, which means the king.
- On top of the king’s character, there is a flag, which turns the king’s character into the 主. It means the host.
- Lastly, when you look at the palace in general, it represents the 興, implying a thriving Saigon under Diem’s presidency.
The 1st Floor
This floor is arranged for meetings with different aims and levels.
- The cabinet room was used for internal meetings of the southern government. These meetings were usually held every Wednesday. The room is constructed in an oval shape, covered in green. The oval shape would make the participants closer and the green helped to decrease the tension of the meetings.
- Conference Hall is the biggest room in the palace. This is the place of witnessing the ups and downs of 3 Viet Nam southern presidents as well as the most important historical events in south Viet Nam.
- Banquet Room, a dining room for big parties with VIP guests from other countries. The bright color makes everybody feel happy and fresh and enjoy meals better. On the wall, there is a painting called “CAM TU SON HA, THAI BINH THAO MOC”, a great work of architect Ngo Viet Thu, meaning a wish for the country’s prosperity and long-lasting regime.
The 2nd Floor
This place is a private area for the president and his family lived. There is the president’s working room, the family’s bedrooms, and a dining room. Also, there is a small garden designed for the first lady – Mrs. Nguyen Thi Mai Anh, who wanted to have a green ambiance right where she lived.
- Inside the president’s working room is a set of chairs and desks for the president to work. They were made of crane and pinewood which is the symbol of longevity.
- The credential room with the main function is for international ambassadors to get the president’s signature. The special point of this room is the lacquer picture hanging in the middle of the room comes from 40 pieces of wood done by the artist Nguyen Van Minh. The masterpiece was made in the Japanese style.
- The president reception room for visitors has a total of 2 rooms, one for international visitors and one for Vietnamese ones. In the middle of the room, there is a couple of elephant ivory that represents political power. Additionally, the set-up of welcoming chairs is very clever and implied. The chair for the president is always put higher than others to show up the higher level of the president among other guests.
Outside the Rooms
- There is a giant carpet right in the middle of the 2nd floor. From the above, the color and the round shape represent the sun, which is known as the source of light and life. On the carpet, there are embroidered 2 dragons – a symbol of politics and royalty we could always see in Asian belief. Mingling with dragons are the phoenixes, which stands for the high class or royalty. Overall, this carpet is a hope of wealth and longevity for the southern republic of Vietnam to last forever like the sun.
The 3rd Floor
Personally, this floor is considered as the entertainment complex with a dining room, cinema, game room, and library. This place was where the president and his generals relax after a nerve – breaking meetings
- The dining room was designed and decorated by the first lady – Nguyen Thi Mai Anh, who wanted to use this room for meals with her friends and welcome her husband’s visitors. The design for this room is more gentle and girly with curtains and elegantly white-colored walls.
- The cinema entertains people in the president’s family. The palace also has a small room destined for broadcasting movies. There are about 10 rows of chairs and a big projector opposite the stage. This place was a witness to the powerful family having entertaining moments.
The terrace is built to create peace and silence for the president so that he could enjoy the fresh air and reflect on himself. If you stand on the side which is forward to Le Duan street, you can see an overview of the city and the Independence Palace. This position was also where the president sometimes stood to look at the city and think about his country’s status under his presidency.
The hooking point in this area is 2 white round holes. These holes were marked to remember the events of 2 bomb attacks happening at the palaces.
The basement played an important role in maintaining communications between the core department and the battles. The basement rooms are differentiated into broadcasting newsrooms and shelters for the president to hide when attacks happened.
The outside area of the palace showcases a variety of armament models used in the battle in Vietnam. Notably, there are 2 tanks at the main gate, which were used on Reunification Day – Apr 30, 1975, ending up the South Republic of Vietnam regime.
Notes Before Visit Independence Palace
- Remember to wear informal clothes. Try to avoid wearing shorts or sandals when entering the palace.
- It is free to take photos in all areas, so remember to prepare your good camera.
- Since the Independent Palace has a lot of good things to know. You should spend about 1 to 2 hours at this place before visiting other tourist attractions.
- Follow the instructions of the sign or any guards inside the palace.
- Remember to speak quietly throughout your trip.
- Please bring no luggage, animals, food or drinks, weapons, toxic chemicals into the monument.
- On the right side of the place, from the main gate, there is a Cafe 30/4. You can go there to have some Vietnamese drinks or food. It’s good.
Overall, I might say that visiting the Independence Palace will be a valuable experience for any visitors coming to Ho Chi Minh City. This place has been reflecting the growth of the city throughout the decades and left so many remarkable things for the city and its citizen. Hence, if you have a chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City, remember to put this place in your bucket list.
OK, INDEPENDENCE PALACE AND REUNIFICATION PALACE, WHICH NAME DO YOU LIKE?