Dalat has three palaces, or “Dinh”. The Dinh III is the summer palace of Bao Dai, which we had visited earlier in the day. The Dinh II is the Governor’s Mansion, closed to the public. And then there’s the Dinh I, the “King’s Palace”, built in 1940 by French millionaire Robert Clement, and purchased by Bao Dai in 1949.
Until he left in 1954 for permanent exile in France, Bảo Đại kept a summer palace in Dalat. Today, the palace is open to tourism. Little has changed since his departure, so visiting provides an excellent glimpse into the life of Vietnam’s final emperor.
For whatever reason, I had always assumed that the history of Saigon stretched back to the dawn of humanity. “The Ancient City of Saigon” does have a nice ring to it, but it’s not true. In fact, for most of its history, Saigon was an unimportant Cambodian fishing village. (Maybe I was mixing it up with legendary Shangri-La?) But despite its late debut as a major Southeast Asian city, Saigon has seen plenty of action. Here’s a concise rundown of its history.