Sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City (1)

Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)

I have been to Ho Chi Minh City multiple times but only for business. I usually stay at Sheraton Saigon at District 1, the heart of the city. It is within walking distance to most of the tourist attractions like Independence Palace, Saigon Opera House, Central Post Office and  Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. Whenever I have an hour or two to spare, I will do some sightseeing.

If you have half a day to spare for sightseeing while you are at Ho Chi Minh City, I would recommend to visit the Independence Palace, Saigon Opera House, Central Post Office and  Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. And if you have more time to spare, check out the Saigon Bar on the top floor of The Caravelle Hotel.


Independence Palace – 1 to 2 Hours tour

The Independence Palace

The Independence Palace, was built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. It was the home and workplace of Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The Independence Hall served as Thiệu’s home and office from October 1967 to 21 April 1975, when he fled the country as communist North Vietnamese forces swept southwards in the decisive Ho Chi Minh Campaign.

On 8 April 1975, Nguyễn Thanh Trung, a pilot of the Vietnam Air Force and an undetected communist spy, flew an aircraft from Biên Hòa Air Base to bomb the palace, but caused no significant damage. At 10:45 on 30 April 1975, a tank of the North Vietnamese Army bulldozed through the main gate, ending the Vietnam War. In November 1975, after the negotiation convention between the communist North Vietnam and their colleagues in South Vietnam was completed, the Provisional Revolutionary Government renamed the palace Reunification Hall.

President’s Office in the Hall
Ambassador’s Chamber

State Banqueting Hall – The last State Dinner was held here by President Thieu on 1 March 1975 for the US congressional delegation sent to report on the prospects for continued support for the southern government

State Banqueting Hall – State banquets were held in this room

Conference Hall – At 19:30 on 21 April 1975, President Thieu delivered his resignation speech in this room.  He spoke over two hours about the country’s situation in the wake of the Americans’ decision to discontinue their support. Vice President Tran Van Huong then succeeded to the Presidency, pledging to continue the struggle “to the bitter end”. He resigned just a week later, and was replaced by General Duong Van Minh, from whom the revolutionary authorities received the formal declaration of surrender. In November 1975, the Consultative Council for National Reunification used this room for its deliberations. Today it is used for official receptions and other important events.

Conference Hall – Receptions were held in this room.

President’s War Room – Incoming transmissions allowed the President to oversee developments on the battle front and to remain in direct contact with the US Embassy and his military forces and commanders in the field. The various maps on the wall assisted the President in keeping track of the unfolding tactical situation.

President’s War Room – The old war room or President’s Situational Room at the bunker of the Palace
Helicopter on the roof of the Reunification Palace

Tank 390 – This tank is identical to the armoured vehicle which made the famous break-through into the Palace grounds through the Palace gate on 30 April 1975.

Tank 390

Parting Thoughts

After visiting the Independence Palace, I recalled the personal experience that my colleague shared with me. He was originally from South Vietnam but moved to US when he was 10. During the Vietnam War, his mother was working for the church in Saigon. The church pastor received news that US discontinued their support and will be sending helicopter to pick them and bring them back to US. He offered to bring my colleague’s mother and family with him. Upon hearing the news, his mother rushed home to gather her family and rushed to the American Embassy then. He shared that the situation was chaotic, just like what we saw in the movie. His family were fortunate to escape as they might be prosecuted as his mother was working for the church. More than thirty years later, he is back in Vietnam, contributing to the country where he was born.

Would there still be a reunification if there was no war. No one knows.

Will cover on the rest of the places in my next post. Stay tune!

This post is part of My Vietnam Travel Series, for more on my travel experience in Vietnam, check here.


The Lowdown – Independence Palace

Opening Hours: Morning Hours – 7.30 to 11.00 and Afternoon Hours – 1:00 to 4:00

Admission: 30,000 VND for Adult

For more information on the Independence Palace, do check at


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