Tuesday, May 19, 2009

the 60s, as frozen in the Reunification Palace of Saigon

The images of the North Vietnamese tanks breaching the walls of the South Vietnamese presidential building made news worldwide in April 1975 and signified the end of the Vietnam War. This wartime headquarters, formerly referred to as the Independence Palace, is now officially known as the Reunification Palace which in the Vietnamese psyche, is a symbol of the Communist’s triumph over West in general and the US in particular.

Reunification palace
The Reunification Palace features an 800 meter wide façade. The architect was Ngô Viết Thụ, renowned for his numerous international architectural awards.

USSR-made T54 tank
a USSR-made T54 tank exactly like this drove through the palace gates in April 30, 1975

the famous helipad
the palace’s rooftop is the helipad that saw scenes of escape during the days preceding the fall of Saigon

History is written by the victors and the triumphant “nationalist” forces wasted no time in preserving the Palace as they conquered it, perhaps to serve as an icon of the extravagant “imperialist collaborators” that is the South. Had it been the other way around, the West would be touting Vietnam as the poster child of democracy’s success and the edifice would not be stuck in a time rot that tourists can now witness, if not gawk. So gawk I did.

lacquer painting
Several walls have murals painted showing Vietnamese ideals, as done by famous Vietnamese painters

60s grill
stylized grills in the lower floor used Chinese-style cloud motifs

Reunification palace lawn
the palace sits on 12 hectares of land and is fronted by a spacious grass lawn

President's Room
the Office of the President exemplifies the 60s kitsch

cabinet meeting room
the plump leather chairs and the microphone system were top of the line when the Palace was rebuilt in 1966

old maps
old wartime maps recall strategic plans of the South against the North

Pres Intl reception room-1
the President’s International reception room is predominantly red

Credentials Presenting Rm-1
Newly assigned diplomats presented their credentials to the President in this room

First Ladys Reception rm-1
the First Lady had her own reception room for visiting dignitaries

Movie Theatre Cinema-1
the movie theatre now smells musty and moldy

radio station-1
the radio equipment which saw action during the war

banquet room
the formal banquet room could sit 22 people in one long rectangular table

Gambling Room
the gambling and casino room is used as an example of the profligacy of the South

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