Kulen Mountain – Where Tigers roamed

Not too many years ago wild Tigers roamed the Kulen mountain and the surrounding Savannas. Today however, Tigers are considered extinct in Cambodia, but there is a reintroduction effort underway that started in 2017. With the help of WWF the Tiger will be reintroduced in the country.

Phnom Kulen, the Kulen mountain range is located about 50km (about 30 miles) N/E of the city of Siem Reap. Some 1200 years ago in the 900’s, Phnom Kulen was named Mahendraparvata and it was the first capital of the Khmer Empire (also called the Angkor Empire). Today it is a place revered by and considered to be sacred to Hindus, Buddists and Cambodians in general. This is where Jayavarman II founded the Khmer Empire.

Siem Reap River headwaters up on the Kulen mountain has some spectacular waterfalls on it's way down the mountain.
Siem Reap River headwaters up on the Kulen mountain has some spectacular waterfalls on it’s way down the mountain. This is the big Kulen falls. Oh, and Lara Croft jumped from the top of this waterfall in the Tombraider movie.

So the story goes – according to locals: First came the farmers and poachers up the mountain and the Tigers largely moved away or were decimated. Then came the tourists who were visiting nearby Angkor Wat and the farmers were shooed off the mountain by the authorities who looked at tourism as a larger catalyst for change than farming.

Siem Reap River high up on the mountain.
Siem Reap River high up on the mountain.
These are the upper falls of the river up on the Kulen mountain.
These are the upper falls of the river up on the Kulen mountain.

Tourism can be a driver of positive change, but it has to be managed very carefully to be a good force and can not be left to self regulation, as this is likely to cause more harm than good.

This is where the river goes over the edge into the big Kulen falls.
This is where the river goes over the edge into the big Kulen falls.
Next to where the river goes over the edge is this big Kudzu overgrown - something.
Next to where the river goes over the edge is this big Kudzu overgrown – something.
Kulen falls. The plunge-pool is perfect for swimming and trunks and change boot can be rented if you did not bring trunks.
Kulen falls. The plunge-pool is perfect for swimming and trunks and change boot can be rented if you did not bring trunks.
Another look out over the area surrounding the Kulen mountain.
Another look out over the area surrounding the Kulen mountain.

Here is a video of the Kulen Falls:

Expand to full screen when playing by clicking arrows in the upper right corner.

Saigon’s Independence Palace and the fall of Saigon

Saigon’s Independence Palace was built on the site of the older Norodom Palace. The Norodom Palace was built by the Governor of  the French colony Cochinchina and the Palace was finished in 1873. After the French surrendered to the Viet Minh in 1954 and agreed to withdraw its troops from Vietnam, the country was divided along the 17:th parallel into the Communist North Vietnam and anti-Communist South Vietnam. In 1955, a vote based on the principles of universal suffrage was held in both North and South Vietnam to establish a unified Vietnamese government. This vote saw the side supported by the Prime Minister of South Vietnam Ngô Đình Diệm as the winning side. Ngô Đình Diệm then established the new unified country of the Republic of Vietnam and proclaimed himself Prime Minister. The Norodom Palace was renamed “Independence Palace” to mark this event.

 Independence Palace front gate.
Independence Palace front gate

In 1962, two renegade pilots that were supposed to go on a mission against the Viet Cong, rebelled and flew against the Norodom Palace dropping bombs on it. During the bombing so much of the Palace was destroyed that repairing the old Palace was not an option. Instead the Palace was rebuilt with a design by famed Vietnamese architect Ngô Viết Thụ.

Palace construction photo from the Palace Museum (Copyright Independence Palace Museum).
Palace construction photo from the Palace Museum (Copyright Independence Palace Museum).

President Ngô Đình Diệm and his family escaped this assassination attempt, and moved into the Gia Long Palace (this building is now the Ho Chi MMinh City Museum) while a new Palace was built on the site of the old Norodom Palace.

President Ngô Đình Diệm never had the opportunity to see the new Palace finished since a later attempt at his life during a coup d’etat in 1963 was successful and the President was assassinated. The new Palace stood ready in 1966 and the General that led the the coup, General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, who was now in a leadership position of the military juntas “National Leadership Committee” inaugurated the Palace on October 31 1966.

The circles in the picture in front of the Huey represents where the two bombs dropped on the Palace April 8 1975 hit the helipad.
The circles in the picture in front of the Huey represents where the two bombs dropped on the Palace April 8 1975 hit the helipad.

On April 8 1975 Nguyễn Thanh Trung, a South Vietnamese Air Force Pilot and defector supporting the North Vietnamese Communist regime, stole an F5-E fighter jet and bombed the Palace. This attempt was not successful and caused little damage and no casualties

This tells the story of the April 8 1972 bombing.
This tells the story of the April 8 1972 bombing.
A piece from the April 1975 Palace bombing sits by the marker for where one bomb hit the helipad. It has been signed by the renegade pilot Nguyễn Thanh Trung.
A piece from the April 1975 Palace bombing sits by the marker for where one bomb hit the helipad. It has been signed by the renegade pilot Nguyễn Thanh Trung.
Closeup of the autographed shrapnel.
Closeup of the autographed shrapnel.
This is the North Vietnamese tank that crashed through the Palace gates on April 30 1975 marking the end of the Vietnam war.
This is the North Vietnamese tank that crashed through the Palace gates on April 30 1975 marking the end of the Vietnam war.

General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was the last person to live in the palace. He lived and worked there until the fall of Saigon on April 30 1975. The dramatic ending to the war came later in the spring of ’75 when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the gate of the Palace thus, marking the end of the Vietnam war.

A Huey always sat at the ready on the rooftop of the Palace.
The Huey on the helipad on the roof of the Palace.

April 30 1975 The President of South Vietnam fled the Palace and Saigon on a Huey that was always sitting at the ready on the rooftop of the Palace. Similar scenarios played out at the US Embassy where Helicopters were flying US supporting South Vietnamese personnel out of Vietnam, and as a first step on the way to the US, onto a US Carrier in The South China Sea.

A look at the mid mod ticket office building.
A look at the mid mod ticket office building.

After the fall of Saigon in 1975 the Palace was renamed Independence Palace and it is now a popular museum and a Saigon landmark.

The line to the ticket office for Palace entry ticket.
The line to the ticket office for Palace entry ticket.
Inside the ticket office for the Independence Palace (Vn - Dinh Hoc Lap) entry tickets.
Inside the ticket office for the Independence Palace (Vn – Dinh Hoc Lap) entry tickets.
Front entrance to the Palace.
Front entrance to the Palace.
A view from the second story balcony towards the front gate and the street named after a 13:th century government official - Han Thuyen.
A view from the second story balcony towards the front gate and the street named after a 13:th century government official – Han Thuyen.
A nice Bonsai arrangement by the side entrance to the Palace.
A nice Bonsai arrangement by the side entrance to the Palace.
The Palace side entrance.
The Palace side entrance.
A side view of the trees flanking the side entrance.
A side view of the trees flanking the side entrance.
Right outside of the Presidents office is this room, that could be looked at as a sort of "Situation room".
Right outside of the Presidents office is this room, that could be looked at as a sort of “Situation room”.

Outside the President’s office in the Palace is a room that was intended for meetings with the cabinet in situations that needed a quick response. A more secure room is also located in the “Bunker” in the basement of the Palace.

President's office.
The President’s office.
The President's office sitting area
The President’s office sitting area.
A panoramic shot of the Library.
A panoramic shot of the Library.
This is a formal reception room where  the President would, for instance, receive foreign diplomats that had been assigned to represent their countries in Vietnam.
This is a formal reception room where the President would, for instance, receive foreign diplomats that had been assigned to represent their countries in Vietnam.
Reception room.
Reception room.
Reception room.
Reception room.

The Palace has numerous official rooms for the President to host visiting dignitaries and to represent the country in.

Panoramic view of the game room, with a bar on one end.
Panoramic view of the game room, with a bar on one end.
A closer look at the bar area of the game room, with the mid century furnishings.
A closer look at the bar area of the game room, with the mid century furnishings.

Architecturally the design of the Palace and it’s furniture makes me wonder if the architect may have been influenced by the Finnish master Alvar Aalto who was very active and well known internationally at this time. The openness and above all the light playing such a big part of the design certainly invoke those thoughts.

An architectural detail of the exterior of the Palace, an effective privacy screen that lets light through.
An architectural detail of the exterior of the Palace, an effective privacy screen that lets light through.
A corridor in the Palace.
A corridor in the Palace.
A Grand Piano in one of the rooms, ready for concerto or dance maybe.
A Grand Piano in one of the rooms, ready for concerto or dance maybe.
A nice Pine forest adorns the wall behind the Grand Piano.
A nice Pine forest adorns the wall behind the Grand Piano.

On the opposite end of the Palace from the President’s office is the office of the Vice President.

The Vice President's office.
The Vice President’s office.
A view of the sitting area of the VP office with a picture of the wife of 	Nguyễn Lương Bằng, the last VP to occupy the office.
A view of the sitting area of the VP office with a picture of the wife of Nguyễn Lương Bằng, the last VP to occupy the office.

The Dragon Rug is located in a hallway between the official part of the Palace and the Residential wing where the President and his family lived. The old Norodom Palace was, according to fengshui, built on the Dragon’s head and the old Palace was sometimes referred to as “The Dragon’s Head Palace”.

Dragon Rug made in Hong Kong 1973.
Dragon Rug made in Hong Kong 1973.

The private area of the Palace holds bedrooms, dining, entertainment rooms and guest rooms.

The private residence of the President in the Palace has a miniature bonsai landscape in the central courtyard.
The private residence of the President in the Palace has a miniature bonsai landscape in the central courtyard.
Opposite side of the landscape.
Opposite side of the landscape.
Dining room.
Panoramic view of the dining room.
Panoramic view of the dining room.
A display of items gifted to the President by foreign dignitaries.
A display of items gifted to the President by foreign dignitaries.
Some mementos of important events in the countries recent history.
Some mementos of important events in the countries recent history.
Living room.
Living room.
An office in the private wing.
An office in the private wing.
Movie theater.
Movie theater.
A bedroom in the private section.
A bedroom in the private section.
The rooftop holds an entertainment area with a bar and a grand piano for entertainment.
The rooftop holds an entertainment area with a bar and a grand piano for entertainment.
Communication equipment antennas on top of the roof.
Communication equipment antennas on top of the roof.
On the helipad next to the rooftop hut the Huey sits at the ready (well it used to be at the ready back in '75).
On the helipad next to the rooftop hut the Huey sits at the ready (well it used to be at the ready back in ’75).
A view from the rooftop.
A view from the rooftop.

The first floor of the Palace has some bigger ballroom style rooms for larger functions, and the all important kitchen is also located here.

Architectural detail of the door leading to the stairwell .
Architectural detail of the door leading to the stairwell .
Elevator mid century styling of door.
Elevator mid century styling of door.
Stairwell
Stairwell
The Palace kitchen that was equipped to feed many people during the big events as well as the President and family and staff on a daily basis.
The Palace kitchen that was equipped to feed many people during the big events as well as the President, family and staff on a daily basis.
The Major Whip of the kitchen...
The Major Whip of the kitchen…
Big wats for boiling whatever needed boiling.
Big wats for boiling whatever needed boiling.

The basement holds a couple of cars that has been put on display for the tourists that come to visit the Palace nowadays.

A Jeep M152n used by the last President of South Vietnam to ride to a radio station to broadcast the surrender speech.
A Jeep M152 used by the last President of South Vietnam to ride to a radio station to broadcast the surrender speech.
This Mercedes Benz 200 was also frequently used by the South Vietnamese President.
This Mercedes Benz 200 was also frequently used by the South Vietnamese President.

Bunkers and war rooms are located underneath the Palace.

Entrance to the war rooms in the bunker.
Entrance to the war rooms in the bunker.
Long corridors are running the length of the Palace and numerous offices, communication rooms and bunk rooms are located along these corridors.
Long corridors are running the length of the Palace and numerous offices, communication rooms and bunk rooms are located along these corridors.
One of the many offices.
One of the many offices.
Here is one of the communication rooms - the radio room.
Here is one of the communication rooms – the radio room.
A bunk room.
A bunk room.
A top secret list of troop sizes of American units at different locations.
A top secret list of troop sizes of American units at different locations.
I thought this might be a fitting ending picture with the US Air Force National marking X-ed over on the tail of the Huey 445.
I thought this might be a fitting ending picture with the US Air Force National marking X-ed over on the tail of the Huey 445.

Vietnamese waterfalls

One of the lakes up in the mountains around Da Lat.

Waterfalls are not only beautiful, but they can also produce hydroelectric power if dams with a generating plant to produce electricity are built in the river. Environmentally this may be a sensitive issue, but as a whole it may be part of the solution.

Here is a view of the valley where Thac Prenn, the Prenn waterfall is located in the Da Lat area of the Lam Dong province.
Here is a view of the valley where Thac Prenn, the Prenn waterfall is located in the Da Lat area of the Lam Dong province.

In Vietnam, hydroelectric power supplies as much as 41.55% of the total electricity production in the country (World Bank compiled number). In comparison, neighboring Thailand only produces about 7% according to Wikipedia.

A statue of a golden warrior with a cross bow.
A statue of a golden warrior with a cross bow.
A pond surrounded by pines on the way to the Prenn falls.
A pond surrounded by pines on the way to the Prenn falls.

Thac Prenn

Thac Prenn – the Prenn waterfall.
Thac Prenn.
Thac Prenn.
A closer look at Thac Prenn.
A closer look at Thac Prenn.
Below the fall, swirling waters.
Below the fall, swirling waters.
Another way water is falling... (A copy of the famous Belgian "Manikin Pis".)
Another way water is falling… (A copy of the famous Belgian “Manikin Pis”.)

Thac Pongour

Thac Pongour - Pongour falls.
Thac Pongour – Pongour falls.
Thac Pongour - Pongour falls.
Thac Pongour – Pongour falls.
Thac Pongour - Pongour falls.
Thac Pongour – Pongour falls.
Thac Pongour
Thac Pongour

Coffe growing

Coffee is grown extensively in this mountainous region of Vietnam to fuel the thirst for beans to roast and supply to the numerous Coffee houses in todays Vietnam. Coffee and coffee houses are very popular. Cong Caphe is one of the most popular ones. In Saigon coffee houses can be found in apartments, like Coffee Apartment. Directions here if you would like to check it out.

Coffee beans are being dried outside of many homes in the area, front lawns, sideboards are all filled with drying beans.
Coffee beans are being dried outside of many homes in the area, front lawns, sideboards are all filled with drying beans.

Thac Voi

Entrance to Thac Voi - Elephant falls
Entrance to Thac Voi – Elephant falls
Sign at Thac Voi - Elephant falls
Sign at Thac Voi – Elephant falls
Thac Voi - Elephant falls
Thac Voi – Elephant falls
Thac Voi in all its beauty.
Thac Voi in all its beauty.
Thac Voi
Thac Voi
It is a steep climb down to "get to the bottom" of the falls - and even trickier to get back up
It is a steep climb down to “get to the bottom” of the falls – and even trickier to get back up.
The big female Buddha sits above the falls at the Pagoda.
The big female Buddha sits above the falls at the Pagoda.
Here is a "companion" figure to the big Buddha.
Here is a “companion” figure to the big Buddha.
Sun creating a halo around the head of the Buddha.
Sun creating a halo around the head of the Buddha.
A view of the falls and the valley.
A view of the falls and the valley.

Video of the Elephant Falls – Thac Voi.

The valley is filled with greenhouses and a hugh amount of flowers and vegetables are grown in the area.
The valley is filled with greenhouses and a hugh amount of flowers and vegetables are grown in the area.
A smiling Buddha at the waterfall.
A smiling Buddha at the waterfall.