This week, our Travel pics series is H for Ho Chi Minh City.
If you go to Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) in Vietnam, whether you book any day-tours around the city or just follow the guide-books, there are a number of places that are almost guaranteed to be on the itinerary.
There’s the Notre Dame church, the Central Post Office (NOT designed by Gustave Eiffel, despite the urban legends), the War Remnants Museum – and the Palace.
Whether the palace is called the Presidential Palace, the Reunification Palace, or the Independence Palace depends in part on your age, and your politics – in much the same way that Ho Chi Minh City is often called still called Saigon.
The palace was built in the 1960s to replace the Norodom Palace which was itself renamed the Independence Palace in 1955.
That French colonial era palace was severely damaged by a bomb attack in 1962, and so was replaced with the existing building also called the Independence Palace – but usually referred to as the Presidential Palace.
It’s constructed in a typical mid-20th century modernist style but its colonnades are deliberately shaped to evoke bamboo, and its feng shui is supposed to place it on the head of a dragon – hence yet another name for the palace, the Dragon’s Head Palace.
It then acted as both the base and the home for the leader of South Vietnam until the fall of Saigon in 1975 when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the gates effectively ending the civil war that had raged on-and-off for half a century.
Soon after, the Communist rulers of the new country renamed it the Reunification Palace – but the older name appears to have stuck.