Saigon (excuse me if I’m still using the old name but it’s just shorter!) is about one hour flight away from Hue, so we took an early morning flight to get there.
We arrived in a place with blue skies, modern looking buildings and traffic that seemed to at least loosely adhere to some kind of rules. Very nice!
We went to see the Reunification Palace, which was the home and workplace of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
We immediately really liked the architecture of the Reunification Palace. And when we went inside, we were even more impressed. The rooms looked like a cool mix of 60s style interior with Vietnamese traditional paraphernalia.
While our guide explained the historical significance of the palace, Matt and I just got more and more excited by the interior design and decoration.
Here’s the courtyard inside the building.
And then we came to the party room (I don’t think it was called like that but this is basically what it was). And look at the furniture! Such great 60s design. We couldn’t get over it and walked round and round the room, taking photos, pointing out details “Wow, look at those chairs!” “That’s an awesome lamp!” “I wish we had a shelf like this.” I think our guide was slightly confused at that point…
Then we came to the top floor of the building which had a ballroom for dancing and a helicopter landing area for a quick escape. The red markers on the floor show where bombs were dropped during the war.
View from the top. Blue sky! So yes, we were hugely impressed by the Reunification Palace.
Afterwards we checked out the Notre Dame cathedral, which was built by French colonialists. Very weird to see such a European style building in Saigon.
Similarly with the famous Central Post Office, designed and constructed by Gustave Eiffel (the one with the tower). This doesn’t look like Southeast Asia at all!
Post office interior – looks like a train station but it’s not…
Afterwards we went to the War Remnants Museum, which was really difficult to see and digest. At the entrance we were greeted by some victims of Agent Orange, which is a defoliant (a chemical that removes the leaves from trees) that was used during the war. It’s very harmful for humans and it is said that 3 Million Vietnamese suffer from illnesses like disabilities and deformities. Really shocking stuff. The museum had an exhibition specifically about the Agent Orange victims, another focus was photos from the war and from the protests worldwide against the war. But some of the war pictures were so gruesome, I couldn’t look at them. Even thinking about it now makes me feel sick.
On the top floor they had an exhibition about war photographers, which I found really, really interesting. This was the first war that was heavily documented in the media and towards the end they started to use colour photos for the first time. The exhibition talked about the work and the fate of many famous war photographers (most died in the war).
Outside of the museum there was a model of the prison where the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners. It was really, really scary and even though there were some tourists taking selfies and posing as prisoners (what are some people like?!!) my head was still so messed up from the museum, that I just walked through the prison quickly without looking at details – I just couldn’t take any more.
So yes, it took some time to vaguely digest all the things we had seen (and remembering all this now that I’m writing this post a few weeks later, it still really affects me).
I actually wanted to post a photo about our dinner that night but I don’t feel like eating now.
I heard that the museum at Hiroshima that I had visited a few weeks prior, used to be really extreme as well but they had to make it a bit more accessible because people couldn’t take it. I wonder if the Vietnamese will ever tone it down a bit but I assume not…