Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saigon to HCMC (5)

War Remnant Museum is both a famous place of interests in HCMC, and a place for history education by Vietnam government. The curious thing I found about it is, it’s purely for propagation of the war crimes done by (mostly) US army, yet among the visitors, a lot of them are from US. When I was watching at those old guys walking around and discussing with their families, I couldn’t help wondering if some of them were actually participating that war.
The museum is not quite big: several 1-storey or 2-storey small buildings surrounding a small yard. In the yard there are some F series airplanes, tanks, cannons, bombs, etc. Most of them were left over by US army when they retreated from Vietnam in 1972-1973, and captured by the North Vietnam army when they captured this capital of South Vietnam in 1975 (right today, Apr 30…).
Inside the buildings there are a lot of photos, illustrations, maps, etc. that show the war crime to Vietnam ppl done by US army. Some of them might cause you to feel uncomfortable.
One building is a replica of the “Tiger Cage” used by the Southern Vietnam government as prison for political prisoners. And some torturing and executing equipments are shown, like this guillotine:

(Ticket for the War Remnant Museum is VND15k, or US$1.)

The Reunification Palace is another must-visit in HCMC. Originally built by French as the governor’s house (named “Norodom Palace” for the namesake of royal family in Cambodia… Obviously French could not tell the diff between these two countries.), the old building was again, a French style piece of arts: Unfortunately this building was bombed and destroyed in an unsuccessful assassination against the then president of Southern Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem. So the president ordered it to be re-built in a modern style. Although the president was assassinated one year afterwards (hence he never saw his new office building), his successors finished the job and renamed it as “Independence Palace” (some tour guide books still called it with this name, so don’t be confused).
After the war, the building was renamed again as “Reunification Palace” and used as a reception place to honorable guests to the city and exhibition. It is said that everything inside the building including furniture, carpets, curtains, etc., are at exactly the same place as the day that the North Vietnam army marched in 34 yrs ago. (The government of the HCMC is now located at the People’s Committee Hall building.)
To be frank, the building itself looks quite boring: But inside it is decorated in a quite splendid way, a style mixed of Chinese and Western cultures. (Actually Vietnam culture is normally categorized as Eastern Asian instead of South-Eastern Asian, due to the huge impact of Chinese culture upon it.)
The basement of the building is a huge bomb shelter, and designed so that the president and the cabinet can still give orders to the military force even under heavy air attack. But ironically, Saigon was never bombed by North Vietnam air force -- in fact, they surrendered even before that.
(The ticket to the Reunification Palace is also VND15k, no tour guide inside, so better get a package tour.)

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