Independence Palace

135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam

Also known as the Reunification Palace, this Vietnamese landmark was constructed on the site of an old French-colonial governor’s residence. It has a remarkably varied past; it housed Japanese officials during World War II and was later the home of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The imposing, broad, angular building played a seminal role in Vietnamese history: It was here on April 30, 1975, in an episode that came to be known as the Fall of Saigon, that a North Vietnamese army tank smashed through the gates, symbolically ending the Vietnam War. A tour of the palace is a step back decades in time—you’ll encounter grand, formal rooms used as banquet halls, reception rooms, and government offices. You can also navigate through basement tunnels and former bunkers.

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The Reunification Tree

While visiting Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, I decided to swing by the Reunification Palace. I figured that if the city planners did such a great job with the layout, and the parks were impeccably designed, that a building with such a name would be awe-inspiring. What I discovered was a rather nondescript office building, set on nicely manicured lawns, with a huge fountain in front, and a few deactivated tanks. I was not expecting this, but I kept exploring the grounds. I did find this magical-looking tree residing on a side lawn to be a perfect representation of what I had in mind regarding the historical significance of where I was standing: the place where the Vietnam War ended on April 30th, 1975. This tree looked as if it was unifying the earth and the sky. It looked like it had been there forever, and it had seen more history and had more tales to tell than anyone I had ever known. With roots firmly entrenched it the earth, and branches thrust towards the sky, I thought this tree captured the spirit of the city I was visiting: Firmly rooted in its cultural past, yet constantly moving forward to an ever bright future.

Reunification with butterfly

Reunification palace is surrounded by butterflies. The square in front of it is in luxurious Parisian style.

Reunification Palace

This 1960s-era structure is famous for its role in the Vietnam War: It was here, on April 30, 1975, that a tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the main gate, signifying the end of the war. Since then, it’s almost as though the place has been frozen in time, with a war room and telecommunications center in the basement, a heliport on the roof and the tank that led the final assault through the palace gate on display. Wander the deserted rooms and corridors and soak up the rather eerie ambiance. The building is also referred to as the Independence Palace.

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