Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tourism in HCMC Take 1: Reunification Palace.

I look across the street at what is considered to be the catalyst for the architectural revolution throughout Saigon. 
 The peak in Saigonese modernism. 
 The Reunification Palace {known until 1975 as the Presidential Palace}.

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Separating me from this building is the same thing that separates me from every other place in my new city of residence: a sea of motorbikes and taxicabs.

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Aside from the busy streets which are not typically adorned with {respected} traffic lights, the intense heat and high humidity levels make getting around in this city a difficult adjustment. The air sort of sticks to my skin; it curls my hair in ways that I never knew were possible, and it causes sweat to pour from every pore on my body. It is uncomfortable to say the least.

People say I'll get used to both the heat and to the streets. I am already excited for that day to arrive.
But I cannot wait around for that joyous moment; there is too much to do in my new city and so, so much to learn.

So, here I stand {sweating}, outside the Reunification Palace, built by Roman Grand Prize winner, Ngo Viet Thu in 1962. 

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 It served as the headquarters and home of South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu until April 1975, when North Vietnamese Army tanks crashed through the palace's gates marking the fall of Saigon and the creation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Though the tanks are parked on the front lawn, the completely rebuilt gates offer no evidence of the turning point in Vietnamese history.

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Wandering through the palace, I am surprised to realize it is less a reminder of war and more just a fancy tourist attraction – it almost feels as though I am walking through a James Bond movie set – especially when looking at the escape chopper stationed on the roof.  Rooms are set up as they were when it was in use and very little information is given about the war years. When the war is referred to, it is called the American War.

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The basement bunker displays original war maps and the president's combat duty bedroom. A small room displays a few seemingly random photographs of different events held at the palace throughout the post-war decades. The photo room also offered a small air-conditioner which I took extreme advantage of before exiting back into the suffocating heat of HCMC.  

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