Saigon was renamed to Ho Chi Minh City in 1976, a year after the city was taken by the Northern Vietnamese but the locals still use the original name. From the airport we were whisked off to see the Post Office, a very attractive building that at first appearances looked rather like a train station. Beautiful old maps are painted on the walls inside and clocks displace time from all round the world. At the back of the building is a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, there are signs of him everywhere all around Vietnam.
Opposite this is the Notre Dame Cathedral, not nearly as exciting as the name suggests!
The Reunification Palace was our next stop, formerly the Presidential Palace. Originally a palace for a French governor it eventually because the presidential palace of the South Vietnam president Diem once the French had departed. He was so unpopular that his own air forced tried to kill him by bombing the palace in 1962. He ordered a new palace be built on the same site but in Vietnamese style and this time it should include a bomb shelter.
He was assassinated by his own military before it was finished. Instead it became home to his successor. It was bombed again in 1975 when the communists tanks rumbled into Saigon, although the building was saved and two red circles mark the area on the helipad where the bombs hit.
The bomb shelter in the basement still seems eerily like they just walked out, except for the fact that the equipment is from the 1970’s.
A series of photographs show everything from the original French palace to concentration camps, with a small child staring out from behind barbed wire. A rather harrowing picture of a monk is displayed during his famous immolation in protest against Diem’s attitude towards Buddhism. This monk came from the same monastery that we saw in Hue at the Thien Mu Pagoda. I suspect this imagine will now be etched in my mind forever. By the time you reach the other end of the room the photographs show the building used in recent years for celebrations and events, including a Mrs World visit in 2005.
Below were taken inside our hotel and from the pool area on roof looking down on the busy traffic.