When you first step inside the Reunification Palace – wait, that’s not quite right. It’s one of those buildings that doesn’t have a front door – it’s a straight from the street to the inside kind of place.
Technically, you can get straight to the roof without actually going through a door. It doesn’t have an inside or an outside is what I’m saying.
Topographically, it’s a kind of non-Euclidean hyper-palace, existing in the same n-dimensional space as those aliens in Interstellar, and the quasi-dimensional morals of Kissinger and Nixon, both temporary visitors to this tesseract.
Objectively, it looks a bit like my old high school, itself an homage to totalitarianism and the eternal boot to the face of intellect. Apparently the place was drawn up by a chap that used to design abbotoirs. My school, I mean, not the palace.
So there’s no door. I mean, there are doors, it’s just that they’re only the ones that lead to the actual bits inside the palace. It’s not so much a building as a series of rooms hanging from nothing, like big concrete grapes on a vine of zero width.
I mean it was the Palace, how do you welcome a visiting dignitary inside if there’s NO INSIDE? Technically we’re all inside the reunification palace. AND NOT. It’s mental.
So when you’re in the covered bit it’s actually really, really good. There’s a little about the Vietnam war, but I mean, if you’re gonna get hung up on something, that’s a pretty strong candidate. There’s a fighter jet and a couple of replica tanks in the garden, but having walked up and down the street a bit it seems like your museum ain’t no museum at all without a little materiel.
You can see the rooms of state – the Cabinet and Dining rooms, and the bit where they received ambassadors (how often did that happen, seriously? A whole room? There were wall sconces that went on fire when they had visitors. Buckingham Palace doesn’t have that).
There’s a picture of Nixon looking like an egregious cunt, one of John Kerry gawping at a wall, and one I especially like of John McCain wearing a nice suit and trying not to beat the shit out of everyone in the room.
First they came for the sons of four star admirals, but… Wait, shit.
They send you further and further upstairs – you can see the room where General Minh (who ran the South for two miserable days before the North invaded Saigon and took the palace) probably never slept.
You can see the cinema and the projectionists suite (at this point it starts to get a little kitsch), you can see the Salon de la Grand Cheesette, where the Big Man’s wife entertained the wives of other Big Men.
But then it gets really good – you get to go in the President’s private suite, from where he ran (if you stretch your imagination a little) the war.
You can see the map room with rows of different coloured bakelite telephones:
You see a DOOR THAT LEADS TO A BUNKER:
A HAM BUNKER.
And then you go on the roof and guess what? That’s right, a frigging Huey.
By this time, if you’re not humming Credence I don’t know what’s wrong with you. There it is, right slap bang on the roof.
You can go into the bunker and it’s full of General Electric radios and Telexes and other nerdy stuff – it’s totally cool. I mean the whole thing is really worth seeing.
There’s a crummy video about how the South was actually really happy when the North dropped by because they hadn’t really enjoyed being puppets of the yanks after all, and I heard a few of them smirking and snorting a little which I thought was unkind – I mean, the Vietnamese have been head-over-heels friendly towards America since then, seriously, but that’s that, I guess.
Anyway, it’s raining and I’m in this lovely cafe that my new friend Cécile suggested, so here’s what I think about soviet brutalist architecture: it’s all about ins and outs, right? Strong relief is used to describe form, then it’s all flipped inside out once or twice to create deep shadows and strong cheekbones and to highlight the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and the oppressive ruling classes.