A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history

By Quynh Tran   March 22, 2019 | 07:56 pm GMT+7

The sister-in-law of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of the Republic of Vietnam (1955-1963), owned a complex with three villas in Da Lat.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history

Located on a hill on Yet Kieu Street in the Central Highlands town of Da Lat is the private mansion complex of Tran Le Xuan. Xuan (1924 - 2011) was the wife of Ngo Dinh Nhu, brother and chief advisor to Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem was South Vietnam's President, installed by the US in the Vietnam war (1954-1975), until he was murdered during a coup in 1963.

Tran Le Xuan was then the de facto First Lady of South Vietnam. As Diem was a lifelong bachelor and because she and her family lived in Independence Palace together with him, she was considered to be the first lady.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 1

This private mansion complex was built in 1958 on a 13,000 square meter plot of land. The complex comprised may buildings of different types. Among them were three villas named Sapphire, White Jade, and Ruby.

The Sapphire villa consists of two buildings. The first is located right at the entrance, where Tran Le Xuan and her husband stayed whenever they visited Da Lat on weekends.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 2

The second, smaller building also served as a holiday home for the family.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 3

The complex is strongly influenced by French architecture with red tile roofs, green windows, and yellow walls.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 4

The two buildings were the most modernly equipped buildings at the time. It had rooms for meetings, working, dancing, and makeup. Every room had a French-style fireplace. Currently, the majority of the complex buildings are a museum.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 5

The Sapphire Villa had an internal escape tunnel and a private shelter for Tran Le Xuan.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 6

The shelter was made with special steel that could withstand heavy fire. The glass doors were bulletproof. Currently, tunnel entrances are restricted.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 7

The White Jade Villa was place of entertainment for Xuan's family and senior officers.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 8

In front of the White Jade villa is a swimming pool, which was the only heated pool in the whole of southern Vietnam at that time.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 9

The Ruby villa was built by Xuan for her father Tran Van Chuong, who was the Ambassador of the Republic of Vietnam in the United States at that time.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 10

The three villas have their own architectural features, connecting with each other through walkways and harmoniously designed gardens. The most prominent one is the flower garden designed by Japanese experts. There is a pond in the garden, which, when filled with water, displays Vietnam’s topography.

A Da Lat villa complex quietly recounts history - 11

After the 1963 coup, the mansion was requisitioned as the Highland Ethnic Museum. In 2007, the complex became the National Archives Center IV.

The museum showcases many previous images of the complex. The area is open during office hours for an admission fee of VND15,000 per person (65 US cents).

 
 
go to top