Visiting Bao Dai villa in Nha Trang
Bao Dai villa (also known as Bao Dai palace) is the common name for homes of King Bao Dai apart from ones in Hue citadel. King Bao Dai owned many palaces through out Vietnam and one of them is in Nha Trang.
From the city center of Nha Trang, go along the seaside Tran Phu road to the South, near the wharf, you will reach a small hill on the left with a small path up. Following this path, a colorful space and magnificent scenery will appear in front of you. Little works of architecture are hidden behind tree canopies. That is Cau Da villa or also called Bao Dai villa – Nha Trang.
From Cau Da villa – flowers by Nha Trang Bay
In early years of 1920s, the French in Indochina deployed a project of researching the Chinese Sea and Southeast Asia. That was the premise for the foundation of the Indochina Ocean Institute (or Institute of Ocean Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa). However, before the establishment of the institute, the French built other architecture in this beach city for Western researchers and oceanographers to live, work and rest. This was Cau Da villa in Canh Long mountain on the seaside near Cau Da marina, Vinh Nguyen ward, Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa.
Cau Da villa is the common name of a complex, which includes 5 villas and some other works of architecture built in 1923 on Canh Long mountain (also known as Chut mountain). Canh Long mountain is small but famous for its special geography in Nha Trang. It is regarded as a green dragon holding Nha Trang sea. Cau Da villa is located in the mountain peak with a cover of nearly 12ha and 50m height above the sea level. Five villas situate on three hills of Canh Long and were named after five romantic trees and flowers. The first villa in the last hill, which is the nearest with the sea, was named “Les Agaves” – cactus; the second one is “Les Frangipaniers” - Bông Sứ; other three are “Les Bouguinvillés” - confetti, “Les Flamboyants” – Flamboyant flower and “Les Badamniers” – Malabar almond tree.
Doctor Armand Krempt (a German French) – the first director of the Indochina Ocean Institute, observed the designing of Cau Da villa. After the architecture was completed, the French continued to construct the Indochina Ocean Institute in 1925 nearby. Doctor Armand Krempt was also the first owner of the Cactus villa with the best location and design.
Five little villas were built in the French style with two floors. Apart from different design, they were made with simple cubes with refined and unsophisticated decorations. Doors of villas were equipped with glass and shutters, which are very suitable with tropical climate. Designers combined the Western architecture and Oriental art of decoration to bring about the harmony of the work, yard, garden and nature. Five Cau Da villas are considered as beautiful flowers by Nha Trang bay to embellish for the beach city.
To Bao Dai villa – Nha Trang
In 1926, Bao Dai was enthroned and became the last king of the Nguyen dynasty – the last feudal regime in Vietnamese history. Since there were many changes in politics and diplomacy, the French transferred two villas – Cactus and Bong Su – for the Nguyen dynasty and King Bao Dai to obtain some political advantages. During 1940 – 1945, King Bao Dai, Queen Nam Phuong and their family often visited and relaxed in the villas, along with other entertaining activities such as fishing and swimming. Since then, Cau Da villa was renamed as Bao Dai villa – Nha Trang.
Bao Dai villa (or Bao Dai palace) is used for villas or palaces of King Bao Dai, apart from ones in Hue citadel. For the historical situation and the lifestyle, which was influenced by the Western, Bao Dai owned many villas and palaces in three regions of the country – the North, Centre and South. All of them, including Bao Dai palaces in Dalat, Vung Tau, Dak Lak and Hai Phong or Bao Dai villas in Nha Trang…, were built and designed by the French with classic style at beautiful attractions in forests or by the seas for relaxing and working.
The Cactus and Bong Su – two most beautiful villas – were chosen as their homes by King Bao Dai and Queen Nam Phuong. According to documents, the ground floor of Bong Su villas was for meetings and treating visitors while the second floor was the living space of the King and Queen; the roof floor was for enjoying blowing winds and the magnificent moonlight. In the East of the villa, there is a link to the Cactus. Whilst, the Cactus is an ideal destination for view exotic scenery because it is the nearest with the sea. From this villa, we can view the entire Nha Trang bay, the sea city by the beach with an elegant curve. The Cactus directs to the East with warm sunshine in the morning and cool sea winds. From the villa, we can walk to the marina or a beautiful beach named Queen beach. Queen beaech is small but one of the most magnificent beaches in Nha Trang. On the way to the beach stands a large rock, where Bao Dai used to sit for fishing.
In 1954, after the failure of the French in Dien Bien Phu, Geneve agreement was signed and Vietnam was provisionally separated into two parts in the 17th parallel of latitude in Quang Tri. After conflicts in the South, Ngo Dinh Diem became the president of the republic. King Bao Dai lost his power and role in the country. Ngo Dinh Diem’s family became the owner of two villas – the Cactus and Bong Su. Mrs. Tran Le Xuan – the wife of advisor Ngo Dinh Nhu (younger brother of Ngo Dinh Diem) renamed the Cactus to Nghinh Phong (open for the wind) and Bong Su to Vong Nguyet (looking at the moon). These new names are somehow related to the routine of King Bao Dai and Queen Nam Phuong. Among names of the architecture such as Cau Da villas, Cau Da private residence, Bao Dai palace – Nha Trang, Bao Dai private residence – Nha Trang…., Bao Dai villa is the most popular.
Ancient sould in Bao Dai tourist site
After the reunification in 1975, Cau Da villas – Bao Dai palace became a popular tourist site. And the architecture is now called Bao Dai tourist site. Cau Da villas are now used as hotels. Some other works of architecture were built later such as Bao Dai restaurant (can hold up 200 guests), Queen restaurant (can hold up 1000 guests), some guesthouses and other structures. Bao Dai tourist site has reached three-star standard with 45 rooms and services…
Cau Da villas – Bao Dai villas are fine structures in a stunning landscape. However, it will be just the cover without spirit if it is shortage of the depth of time and history. If that, it cannot be a favorite destination of a large number of visitors. Therefore in April 2009, Bao Dai tourist site officially launched a traditional room, where displays documents, pictures and objects related to King Bao Dai. The room is located at the ground floor of the most beautiful villa – Nghinh Phong villa.
Visitors can visit the room to discover the history of the Nguyen dynasty, the life of King Bao Dai, Queen Nam Phuong and other members of Bao Dai’s family through pictures and stories. As the last king in the period that there was many exchanges with the Western culture, King Bao Dai and his family owned many photos (taken photos). Also in the room, guests can view many objects of the King and Queen such as chairs and tables and dressing table of the Queen… Especially, a precious object of the King – the wooden low flat platform, which is 2.5m x 1.4m and 18cm thick, is also displayed in the room. It is said that the King and Queen often sat on this bed in the corridor to get some fresh air…
Although the display room is unobstrusive, it plays a very important role in reliving the history and reminiscing about ancient marks of a work of architecture.
Five villas are now nearly 100 years old. Time and people make it changed somehow. The exploiting of these villas for tourism and construction of other structures have influenced on the main architecture. In addition, the development of services are bringing some bad effects on the environment. These two different impacts of the well-known structures are what visitors think when visiting.