Day 2 of Saigon started with some lovely French cuisine for lunch. There are many French restaurants around the city, but we decided on The Mach House due to a friend’s recommendation. Their lunch set menu is really good value for the price.
I tried a bit of everything. Unfortunately, they didn’t have salmon fillet, otherwise that would have been my pick, but their Australian steak was also very nicely done. As usual, my favourite was the creme brulee!
French duck and pork terrine
Grilled Australian steak
Next, I walked to the Independence Palace for a look. I actually walked by this place on the first day, but it closes at 4 PM, and I could only take a picture from afar. I came back on the second day, and walked in for a look around the building.
The Independence Palace in Saigon was actually built by the French during their colonial rule over Vietnam, and it housed the French Governor in Vietnam. When the French left Vietnam, South Vietnam took over this palace and it became the headquarters of the South Vietnamese President.
Right when you walk in on the first floor, there was some sort of floral-themed fashion show going on, so I was a bit confused at first. It felt like the Saigon post office I visited on Day 1, where something so ‘official’ had been transformed into a marketplace.
I’m pretty sure this is just a seasonal thing, although I’d expect other events to take place in this area over the year. Anything to attract more people!
As we walked up to higher floors, there was no trace of this floral festival, and it became the actual palace that we came to see. There were lots of nice rooms, mainly for hosting different guests and meetings. These rooms also had a bit of ‘Chinese’ touch to it, or at least they look like traditional Chinese architecture.
We saw the quarters for guests sleeping over, and I thought it already looked pretty nice.
Then I saw the living quarters for the actual President. Times like this when I wish I lived in a palace…
He has a huge room for just his wardrobe!
Then, I saw the ‘war room’ – the rooms where the president would gather with advisors and make important war decisions. These rooms are full of maps and telephones.
As you continue up the stairs, you see a lot of the entertainment rooms. There’s mahjong, a theatre, and just a whole lot of space to hang out.
At the very top of the building, there is a helipad. It’s staged to look like the Americans are ‘running away’ after the North Vietnamese successfully bombed the building. You can barely read the words, but in that red circle in the picture, it tells you the exact time when some North Vietnamese pilot successfully threw down two bombs on this building. As you walk through the palace and read all their introductions, you’ll learn that this is (dictated as) a crucial turning point in winning the war.
I thought I was done with the building and was heading for the exit at this point, but luckily we saw a sign that said “bunker” and we headed towards it. This lead us to the very bottom of the building – a safe house buried underground. This place was set up in case the building got attacked, and the President had a passage that connected directly from his room to the bunker.
Again, you had all the maps and telephones set up for war use. There were also lots of rooms full of radio and communications equipment. It’s really cool seeing all this, because a lot of these machines are exactly what we have on aircraft… of course nowadays, they are a lot smaller and compact. But the same stuff nonetheless.
And of course, there were extra bedrooms down here for the President as well.
As a bonus aside, I noticed this sign that said ‘code’ (probably the morse code room), and the Vietnamese said ‘mat ma’, which is basically “code” in Cantonese. Independence Palace is “Dinh Doc Lap” in Vietnamese. You’ll realize that there is a lot of vocabulary in Vietnamese that is very similar to Chinese.
Once we came back upstairs from the bunker, we saw the kitchen. I was most impressed with this huge mixer that stood up to my shoulder!
Before we exited the building, I saw one more thing of interest – the shooting range. I have no idea whose heads are on those pictures, but probably the enemy.
Slowly but surely I’ll finish my blog on my 4-day adventure. It’s getting there…