We played tourist today on the spur of the moment and went to the Reunification Palace. After a lovely breakfast at Snap Cafe, we went home, hosed the sand off the kids, and loaded into a taxi for District 1.
We pulled up to the palace at 11:03. Bummer. The palace is closed to visitors from 11am to 1pm. But we had a mission, and we didn't want to waste a day. So, we wandered about D1 around the cathedral for a couple hours, stopping to get coffee (for us) and overly-sugared smoothies (for the kids). We also popped in to Diamond Plaza for a quick look around at which point Oliver asked to go in the baby carrier and promptly fell asleep.
While walking around HCMC, we saw the standard motorcycle traffic, insane telecommunication wires, stunning mix of old and new, and people simply enjoying their Sunday.
At precisely 1pm, we queued up at the ticket counter to get onto the palace grounds. The place was busy, with a constant flow of tourists, but by far not the most crowded site we have seen thus far.
We took some time and looked all around the four floors and dozens of large meeting room open for the public to view. As someone who grew up completely post-Vietnam War era, I found the museum interesting, but not riveting. However, I witnessed several older male tourists milling about the building who were clearly lost in thoughts from long ago.
The building was very open and lacked that stuffy, museum feel that I had expected. The tapestries, furniture, vases, artwork, and dishes on display were breathtaking--and clearly locked in the 1970's forever. It was almost like walking through the set of an old James Bond movie.
It was interesting to see the helicopter landing pad on the roof of the palace, the communication tower, and the press room that I recall seeing in history books. By far the most exciting thing to see was outside the palace. I clearly remember learning about the gate being toppled by tanks, so it was an odd moment to stand in that place. A place where history unfolded and the world was changed.
And, of course, the boys couldn't make it through the entire tour without being at least a little bit silly. Here they are making "funny" faces. In the other picture, Oliver is kissing a puppy--much to the amusement of the Vietnamese tour guides and every single little old lady in the vicinity.