We wake up late but at least we’ve slept after that two-day bender. Keen to actually see something in Saigon before we jump on a train this evening we breakfast up and grab a cab to the Independence Palace.
This place is currently a museum and occasionally used for banquets and functions but in 1975 it was the main building for what remained of the government of the teetering Republic of Vietnam, a.k.a. South Vietnam. It was also the final scene of the Second Indochina War, or the war between North and South Vietnam, when a PAVN tank crashed through its front gates.
The main floor looked functional – it being the part used for banquets and such – but a lot of it definitely had a 1970s feel to it, like an older hotel that’d been well taken care of but could use some new carpet.
Downstairs, or “The Bunker”, is where it got interesting. There were rooms full of communications gear that had been left more-or-less as found when the North crashed the party.
The president also had a secret little bedroom down there and there was an old-fashioned kitchen.
We skipped a section with a documentary playing on loop and walked out the back to a garden with a captured (and defaced) USAF F-5 as well as the two tanks that crashed through the gates of the palace. (Not sure but I think these may have been reproductions.)
That pretty much wrapped it up so we strolled through some greenspace and braved running through a few chaotic intersections to reach the Notre Dame Cathedral. Impressive but more than anything the number of Catholic churches we’ve seen here have been a real surprise, not just in Saigon but everywhere.
We hit a little cafe across the road beside the old colonial style post office (below) to recharge then wandered back the way we came from, past the Independence Palace, to continue our Southeast Asian Atrocity Tour with the War Remnants Museum.