Located in the heart of Saigon, the tunnel is said to have access to Cho Lon, which helped Ngo Dinh Diem flee Vietnam during the overthrow in 1963. Gia Long Palace is located in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City with an area of about two hectares and surrounded by the four streets including Ly Tu Trong, Pasteur, Le Thanh Ton and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. The construction was designed by French architect Alfres Foulhoux and built between 1885 and 1890.
History of the tunnel under Gia Long Palace
In the past, this building was used as a commercial museum and then became the residence of Hoefel – the administrator of the French colony of Cochinchina. After 1975, Gia Long Palace became the Ho Chi Minh City Museum. In addition to historical significance, this unique architectural work has many mystical stories that mainly revolve around the underground tunnel built under Gia Long Palace.
The birth of the tunnel stems from the fact that the Independence Palace suffered from the bomb damage in February 1962. At that time, Ngo Dinh Diem and Mr and Mrs. Ngo Dinh Nhu moved to the Gia Long for the temporary residence. In fear of another bomb attack to the Independent Palace, the whole Ngo family thought of designing a shelter.
At first, the architect Ngo Viet Thu was assigned to design the basement, but later he moved to the United States. As a result, this design was implemented by the engineer Phan Dinh Tang. This work began in May 1962 and ended in October 30, 1963. The total expense was over 12.5 million VND – the huge amount at that time.
Structure of the tunnel under Gia Long Palace
The tunnel was dug 4 meters deep and built of reinforced cement, 170 kilograms of iron per cubic meter of concrete, with a one-meter wall in thick. By design, the tunnel is able to withstand 500-kilogram cannons and bombs. The total area of the tunnel is approximately 1,400 square meters. The two heads of the main building are two stairs leading to the tunnel.
The tunnel is divided into 6 rooms interconnected through corridors. Some parts of the foundation of the tunnel are cemented or paved with cement tiles. The tunnel has access to Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Pasteur with two small blockhouses.
The doors of underground rooms are made of monolithic steel. To open and close these doors, they turn the rudder that is similar to that of the ship. Inside the rooms are large iron bolts that would be fastened when trouble occurs.
The tunnel has the staircases leading to the office. In case problems came, only after 5 minutes, the essentials would be brought down with full of the communication system connected to the outside. The top of the tunnel is camouflaged by pots of ornamental plants along with the light electric system.
Clean water and drains were also fully equipped so that the tunnel was operated effectively.
Nowadays, the secret tunnel of Gia Long Palace is still preserved in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum. Despite being ranked as a national monument, over various stages, the tunnel has been flooded with so much water. Consequently, the tunnel is partially open to visitors. Traveling in Vietnam, you should visit Gia Long Palace to learn more about Vietnamese history.