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Notes on the Geography of Vietnam: Saigon

Traces of the French city and of the American-supported one.

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The Hotel de Ville (1901-08), now the People's Committee Building. Visualize it a century ago: Europeans in tropical whites and helmets; a few rickshaws.

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The post office, 1886.

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Eminences on parade, including Ben Franklin.

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Inside the post office.

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A wall map of Saigon and environs.

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A companion map map of the Mekong Delta.

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The Municipal Theater, 1898, restored 1995. To its right, the Hotel Caravelle.

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The Gia Long Palace, later the Revolutionary Museum, now the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City.

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A new building in an old style: the Conservatory of Music.

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Notre Dame Cathedral.

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When it's closed, as it mostly is, people pray outside.

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It's a popular spot.

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Builder's mark.

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The city's premier hotel in the colonial period, the Continental Saigon was opened in 1880 by Pierre Cazeau, a building-materials manufacturer. It was sold in 1911 to the Duke of Montpensier and in 1930 to Mathier Francini of Corsica. Guests over the years included Tagore, Malraux, and Graham Greene.

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The Rex Hotel began in 1927 as the Bainier Auto Hall, a Citroen dealership. In 1959, work began on converting it to the Rex Hotel and Trading Center. During the war, the American government leased the building and used it for billeting as well as to hold a daily press conference. After 1975, it became the Ben Thanh Hotel but was sold in 1986, renovated in 1990, and reopened as the Rex.

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The presidential palace of South Vietnam or, formally, of the Republic of Vietnam, which existed from 1955 to 1975. Designed by the French-trained and prolific Ngo Viet Thu, it was completed in 1966 for President Ngo Dinh Diem and stands on the site of the residence built in 1868 for the French governor-general of Cochin China. Now called the Reunification Palace, it is a museum preserved largely as it was on April 30th, 1975, when it was stormed by communist forces.

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Corridors of power, once.

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Decor from the 1950s.

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Projector for in-house theater.

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Map room with maps showing the coordination of forces.

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Basement teletypes.

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To the rear, a plaza.

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Model of the now demolished American embassy--it, too, with a helicopter.

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Entrance to the replacement embassy.

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Nearby, the French embassy gets by with lighter armor.

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Tour buses making the HCMC Highlights circuit.

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