Vietnam (HCMC/Saigon): Cemeteries, Museums, Memorials and Tunnels.

Discussion in 'Vietnam' started by bucklt, May 27, 2012.

  1. bucklt

    bucklt Bucklt

    Vietnam (HCMC/Saigon): Cemeteries, Museums, Memorials and Tunnels.

    Whilst recently in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Vietnam, - formerly Saigon - I had the opportunity to visit various locations and take a number of images which may be of interest to members/visitors of this website.

    Available images are from:

    1. Nghĩa Trang LIêt Sĩ Thành Phó Hò Chí Minh – a war cemetery for those who fought on behalf of the North. Heading out of the city on Highway 1, and half-way between HCMC and Bien Hoa, you will find this cemetery on the right-hand side of the highway. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘’The Martyrs’ Cemetery’’.

    My taxi driver – a former ARVN soldier – refused to enter this cemetery and agreed to wait for me at the main entrance. I indicated to the security guard if it was o-k for me to go in and take pictures. He waved me on. A beautiful cemetery with many visitors offering burnt incense, flowers and lighted candles. The graves tend to be positioned in both small and large semi-circles with the addition of completed circles formed by 8 graves looking inwards. A number of large Stalinesque statues are positioned at the end of the main entrance and the route itself is bordered by lots of red bunting representing both the flags of Vietnam and The Communist Party.

    2. Nghia Trang Nhân Dân Bình An – a war cemetery for those who fought on behalf of the South (also known as The South Vietnam National Military Cemetery). Inaugurated in 1966, an estimated 20,000 soldiers of the ARVN – who died since then - are buried here. Originally it was called Bien Hoa Cemetery but the Government changed it’s name to Binh An Cemetery some years back. It lies on the opposite side of Highway 1 and a little further north of the VC cemetery – mentioned above. Head out along the highway till you come to a large roundabout – with a ‘’Big C’’ store on the right-hand side of the roundabout. Go right around and start coming back into the city center. After a garage,, there’s a narrow lane which leads to the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. It’s behind that structure. If intending to visit, my advice is to look at it via Google Earth first. The complete cemetery is actually laid out in the shape of a giant Bee.

    It's interesting to note the difference in 'condition' and ‘entry procedures’ for both these cemeteries. On arrival, I saw 5 ‘staff’ members – dressed in civilian clothes - sitting just inside the main entrance. I was asked into the admin office and had to show my passport and sign the book – name, nationality, passport number, hotel staying at etc. My taxi driver, again, would not enter, and said he would wait for me at the admin office. As I started to walk towards the concrete memorial, which forms a ’hub’ for the complete site, I was aware of someone taking a photograph of me (confirmed later-on by my driver).

    The memorial consists of a large obelisk surrounded by a ring of concrete. I could not find any inscriptions here but did see some burning incense and flowers next to the obelisk and noted bullet marks at its base. Many of the graves are not designed to a military-type specification and appear to be of private construction/design – funded by the families themselves? These ones – built above ground and covered in tiles - appear to be well maintained and in very good condition, but many of the military-type appear to be in dire need of some TLC. Contrary to previous reports, I had no problems walking amongst the graves/rows/plots taking pictures, and there’s clear evidence that some form of a general cleaning and maintenance programme is in operation here, keeping the weeds and creepers at bay etc. Trees however, are left to grow wild, but even so, they do manage to provide welcome shade from the Sun. Sadly, despite it’s huge size, I was the only visitor to this cemetery, as I saw no other visitors/mourners during my time there – c90 minutes in total.

    I have no objection to being followed; par-for-the-course in some countries I have visited. Today however, I could have done without it because, in my backpack, were: a small pottery vase, flowers, incense and candles, that I had brought along in order to make offerings and pay homage to a particular grave here. He – the oldest of the ‘staff’’ members – maintained a set distance from me but made the mistake of examining those graves I had already photographed. Each time I stopped and stared at him, he turned his whole body away from me, and when I made to return to the admin office, he quickly moved ahead of me and got there first – no doubt to make his report. Prior to final departure, I entered the office and expressed my thanks to all 5 ‘staff’ members.

    Our debrief, held whilst sipping iced coffee - sitting outside a branch of ‘’The Coffee Bean’’- located across the road from both the French and American Embassies, revealed the following:
    1. One has to sign-in and show some form of ID
    2. Expect your photograph to be taken
    3. Expect to be followed and notice taken of what you photograph
    4. Expect your driver to be asked for his ID, address details, where he picked you up and how he met you etc. That’s what happened to my one.
    5. Previous visitors, reporting via the Web, indicated that they offered some money to the cemetery staff to enable them to use their camera on site. My attempt to do this was waved aside.
    6. We also had an interesting discussion as to who the 5 ‘’staff’’ members actually were :>).

    Given the above scenario, it’s no wonder that there were no local mourners/visitors there! One can only wonder what they have to endure when visiting ?

    Despite the above, I would highly recommend a visit to this cemetery; after all, I WAS allowed access and WAS allowed to use my camera there.

    A common question amongst the locals in HCMC: “”Are you a Red, a Yellow, or, on April 30th, an Orange?’’

    Vietnam: united on the maps but sadly, a nation still divided in both hearts and minds. I wish them well!

    Video covering visit of former US soldier in 1994: South Vietnam National Military Cemetery (1994) - YouTube

    3. The War Remnants Museum. Images cover various pieces of military hardware on the ground floor - aircraft, tanks, artillery - including additional exhibits on the upper floors and a separate exhibition covering 'tiger cages' and Phu Quoc prison.

    4. Reunification Palace. Images from all the floors including the basement area with the sigs/comms still in-situ.

    5. HCMC City Museum. A small number of military pieces including the actual F-5 fighter that attacked The Independence Palace in April 1975.

    6. Qu Chi Tunnels - and a long-distance shot of White Lady Mountain.

    All above images are now available - FREE – to researchers, writers and historians. When asked, I normally suggest that you make a donation to a Forces Charity of your own choice.

    Please contact me with your requirements via: nt872b(at)

    Cemeteries already completed - includes all graves/names on memorials* (as of May 2012):
    BURMA (Rangoon, Taukkyan* and Thanbyuzayat Cemeteries),
    CAMBODIA (Postwar Forum: Killing Fields - Choeung Ek - and S.21 - Toul Sleng Genocide Museum)
    CHINA/HK (Sai Wan, Stanley, Happy Valley - 12 cemeteries in total),
    INDIA (Kohima and both cemeteries at Imphal),
    INDONESIA (Jakarta War Cemetery, Ancol Cemetery and Ambon Cemetery),
    ISRAEL (Ramlah and Khayat Beach Cemeteries),
    JAPAN (Yokohama Cemetery),
    THAILAND (Kanchanaburi and Chung Kai Cemeteries),
    MALAYSIA (Taiping, Labuan-Borneo, CherasRoad and Terendak Cemteries),
    SINGAPORE (Kranji Cemetery* including pre/post WW2 graves).
    VIETNAM (Postwar Forum: VC/ARVN cemeteries, Reunification Palace, HCMC museums and Qu Chi tunnels )
    *note: above includes all c25,000 names on the Kranji/Singapore Memorial and all c27,000 names on the Taukkyan/Rangoon Memorial

    Tony Buckley :poppy: Asia War Graves Photo Group and now, since January 2017:
    01. Noi Quy VC Cemetery in HCMC, Vietnam.jpg 02. Nghia Trang Nhan Dan Binh ARVN Cemetery in HCMC, Vietnam.jpg 03. View looking out of War Remnants Museum, HCMC, Vietnam.jpg 04. View of War Room (basement area), Reunification Palace, HCMC, Vietnam.jpg 05. Ho Chi Minh City Museum  Anti-aircraft 37MM Model 1939 (Soviet Union).jpg 06. Showtime at Qu Chi Tunnels, Cu Chi District, HCMC, Vietnam.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018

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