Bao Dai's Summer Palace, Dalat - review by Rusty Compass
Dalat | see and do guide

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Bao Dai's Summer Palace, Dalat

| 01 May 2017
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Bao Dai's Summer Palace, Dalat
1 Nguyen Viet Xuan St, Dalat
7.30 - 11.30 and 13.30 - 16.30

Our rating
01 May 2017

The Dalat summer retreat of Vietnam’s last emperor, Bao Dai, is a special piece of art-deco architecture and history, with a simple museum, plenty of kitsch, but not much information. The longstanding official neglect of historical sites like this, while gaudy new palaces are built around Dalat by the country's new rich, gives places like this an added melancholy curiosity. Recommended.

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Vietnam’s last emperor, Bao Dai built a network of retreats at scenic spots around the country - including three in Dalat. His love of hunting was part if what drew him here. In those days, the wooded surrounding hills were home to a rich list of prey, including tigers and elephants.

A second Bao Dai Villa is now also open to visitors, further out of town. It's known as Palace 1 and a recent refurbishment has given it a distinctly Disneyesque feel. This is the better of the two in terms of architecture and authenticity. All have a melancholy fall of kings atmosphere.

Bao Dai’s summer palace was built in 1933 when the Emperor was just 20 years old.  It’s a definitive piece of Vietnam art-deco architecture. The interior features pieces of period furnishing though it’s difficult to know of its authenticity. There are also photos of Bao Dai and his family.

If you’re curious about either the building or its former inhabitants, there’s little by way of information available.

Bao Dai abdicated in favour of Ho Chi Minh's Communists in Hue, in September 1945. He remained a player in national affairs until he chose exile in France in the mid-1950s, when his political options were exhausted.

Bao Dai was a legendary Francophile and died in France in 1997.


Travel tips
The only definite change - not an improvement - is that, upon existing Bao Dai's villa, visitors are forced through a maze of tacky souvenir stalls that requires they walk perhaps 200m further than is actually required to get out. Stern security guards ensure no violations. It reminds me of Sydney Airport's approach to duty free shopping.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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