After buying a very nice copy of Lonely Planet Vietnam (for $3), we headed straight to the
Reunification Palace (called ‘Independence Palace’ during the American occupation and as ‘Norodom Palace’ during the French), which is said to have remained largely untouched since the PAVN tank bulldozed the gates outside on April 30, 1975, marking the very end of the American/Vietnam war. I don’t know how truthful that statement is, but the interior decorating does scream 1960′s!
Completed in 1873, the French built the palace after their successful colonial conquest of Cochinchina, with building materials mostly imported from France. It served as the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the American war, and was even under Japanese control for several months at the end of World War II after defeating the French in a successful coup. It was then bombed in 1962 by two rebel Southern Vietnamese Air Force pilots and destroyed. President Diệm ordered it rebuilt, but was arrested and assassinated after yet another coup d’état in 1963. A couple more coups later (both failed and successful), the palace was inaugurated in 1966 by Nguyễn Văn Thiệu (who’s name should ring a bell!).
(If you aren’t familiar with Vietnamese history (and this sort of thing interests you), check out some history books, as I did prior to my visit, and although I am somewhat of a history nut already, Vietnam has a very interesting and colorful heritage full of upheaval… worth checking out).
The basement had an interesting layout of old military command centers and bomb shelters, as well as a massive kitchen and shooting range… among other things. If you get the chance to visit, make sure to watch the hilariously propagandist and not-at-all biased films as you exit.
The Philippine Military Academy, located just south of Baguio City, is where future officers of the Philippine Armed Forces are trained. Don’t have much more info on this I’m afraid… and as you can tell by my pics, I was a little infatuated by the modified [civilian] jeeps.
I wish I could travel in some sort of style, like in this BAW (Beijing Automobile Works) BJ2022 Brave Warrior MkII, a Chinese-style Hummer (“Han Ma“, or Bold Horse in Chinese), even though a Chinese company currently owns Hummer (view American reactions here).
Sure, one could say it is a copy of the American HMMWV (“Humvee/Hummer”), but we would also have to mention the Hummer was copied off the Lamborghini Cheetah (built in California by Lambo for the US military) which, in turn was copied off the XR311.
Fun fact: the US Army crashed and destroyed the only prototype Cheetah and never returned it to Lambo, 3 years later the Hummer emerged.
Lamborghini eventually scrapped the Cheetah (most likely in part due to it’s nutty 3-gear 5.9L V8 Chrysler engine), then built the LM001, and in 1986 unveiled the LM002 (aka the “Rambo Lambo“) production model at the Brussels Auto Show, one of the coolest and most sought after cars of the 1980′s with it’s 42 valve 5.2L V12 engine taken out of the Countach (also undoubtedly one of the coolest cars of the 80′s). The LM002 subsequently held the record for most horsepower in a SUV (455HP) for over 20 years until Porsche manufactured it’s most powerful engine ever and produced the Cayenne Turbo S (550HP).
Only 301 LM002′s were ever built in it’s 7 year lifespan and I have been lucky enough to see one in the flesh on the mean streets of Overschie, Holland back in the mid 90′s. I still remember it like it were yesterday, with those custom Scorpion tires… what a beast.
Fun fact #2: Hunter S. Thompson (a hero of mine) owned one.
Fun fact #3: Iraq, 2004; not knowing it’s value or rarity, the US military (irony?) found a LM002 that had belonged to Uday Hussein and used it to “simulate the effects of a car bomb”. Boom. Only the engine “survived”… talk about war crimes.
Read more about the Lamborghini LM002 here.
[überholprestige- German term for the ability of a car to intimidate drivers into moving out out the way]