Me and Chairman Mao
  Saigon: Reunification Hall
After seeing the War Museum, we took a quick trip down the street to the other big Vietnam War site: Reunification Hall, AKA the former presidential palace, AKA the building that had its front gate bashed down by NVA tanks during the Fall of Saigon. Or at least, we tried to take a quick trip down the street to see Reunification Hall, but the random hours (it's not open from 11:30 AM to 1 PM for some reason) meant we kept right on walking to this coffee shop (Highlands Coffee, the Starbucks of Saigon--until Starbucks shows up, anyway) where we sat around reading for an hour, before walking back to Reunification Hall.

Actually, it wasn't such a bad thing, since it meant that: a) we got to eat lunch; and b) we ended up on the side of the hall the entrance was on, which makes a big difference when the place you're trying to get into is larger than a standard city block. I guess that's what we get for not paying attention to the actual street the entrance was on in the guidebooks. Seriously though, they should put a big star or something over the actual entrance, since I think that navigating around in a foreign city where you can't speak the language using a little black and white map in the back of a flimsy guidebook and actually manage to find what you're looking for should be enough, shouldn't it? Should you really have to worry about what unpronounceable street you are actually on? No, I don't think so, either.

Anyway, back to the Reunification Hall. If I was describe it in one word, the word would be "groovy." Really. It was built--and apparently furnished--in the sixties, and since the Communists basically turned the place into a museum the day after Saigon fell, it looks just the same, complete with funky plush chairs and large, circular sofas, which we all know are seriously swinging. Insert your own Austin Powers jokes here, baby! Speaking of which, I guess I should have said "seriously shagadelic?" Talk about missed opportunities …

Whatever. Here are the palace gates. (Note: if you are looking at these, you are indeed on the side of the palace with the entrance.) Presumable these aren't the gates that were smashed open by a few tanks back in 1975, since you'd think those gates would look slightly worse for wear. And now that I write that, they might have actually been in the bizarre Ho Chi Minh museum we went to one morning. Or maybe those were copies and the original gates were stolen by some enterprising entrepreneurs one night and sold as scrap metal. Probably that's the case:

The palace itself. Hello, sixties architecture!

The famous gates--and a totally not-at-all-famous fountain--seen from inside the palace:

One of the conference rooms inside the palace. Is it me, or is this place just a little over the top?

Remember the last chopper off the roof pictures from the fall of Saigon? This isn't that chopper. Or that roof. But it IS a chopper on a roof in Saigon, so I figured that was probably close enough. Or at least I told myself it was:

Before they actually took Saigon, the NVA managed to bomb the presidential palace using their jets. This circle commemorates the spot where the intrepid NVA pilot managed to actually hit the palace. Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't you think there would be, oh, I don't know, a hole there or something? I mean, what sort of bomb doesn't leave a hole? Really, the whole display would be much more effective if it was a big, smoky hole instead, with maybe a sign and arrow that says something about how "Pilot Nguyen Than Trung dropped his bomb right there!" or something, don't you think?

In the basement there were a bunch of display cases commemorating the NVA capturing the palace: this is the North Vietnamese flag that was raised over the palace when it fell, and the gun that the soldier who raised the flag was carrying at the time. I know--historical:

Remember how I said that the front gate of the palace was bashed in by an NVA tank? This isn't that tank. That tank is right next to this one, but I don't have any good pictures of it, so I'll show you this tank instead, which came in right after the gate-bashing tank. The tank behind the tank, so to speak:

Coming up next--the last post from Saigon. It's about time …

Previously, on my vacation:

- Saigon: the War Museum.
- Saigon: the Streets.
- Hoi An: The River.
- Hoi An: My Son.

Hoi An: the People.
Hoi An: the Streets.
Hue: Zoom, Zoom.
Hue: the River.
Hue: the Imperial Tombs.
Hue: the Imperial Palace.
Hue: the Streets.
Halong Bay: the Videos.
Halong Bay.
Hanoi: the Random.
Hanoi: Water Puppets.
Hanoi: the "Hilton." '
Hanoi: the People.
Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
Hanoi: the Streets.
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Saigon: the War Museum.
Saigon: the Streets
Hoi An: the River.
Hoi An: My Son.
Hoi An: the People.
Hoi An: the Streets.
Hue: Zoom, Zoom.
Hue: the River.
Hue: the Imperial Tombs
Hue: the Imperial Palace

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