Going Through The Tourist Ritual in Saigon… Part 2

Continuing my touristy route towards the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon where other noteworthy architecture are situated, I passed by the Ho Chi Minh City Hall, with a bronze statue of Uncle Ho (Vietnam’s late President Mr Ho Chi Minh) standing at the park in front of the French colonial-style building.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Frankly, I didn’t know the name of this landmark until I returned home & searched online. 😛 Nonetheless I must say I was quite intrigued by the beauty of this impressive architecture. Originally the Hôtel de Ville de Saïgon, it was built in 1902-1908 for the old Saigon city. In 1975, it was renamed as Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee. The statue of Uncle Ho was only installed in 1990 in the park in front of the building to celebrate his 100th birthday. However, what you see above is a new statue that replaced the old one in May 2015, to commemorate the 40th anniversary that marked the end of Vietnam War. As expected, there was a constant stream of visitors here to snap some great shots of the landmark throughout the short 15-20 minutes I was there.

After that, while on the hunt for food to satisfy my hunger pangs along the upmarket Dong Khoi Street, I spotted the stunning Saigon Opera House (also known as Municipal Theater).

The Saigon Opera House from across the street

The Saigon Opera House from across the street

Built in 1898 by French architect Eugene Ferret, Saigon Opera House was deliberately set to be 2m higher than the street surface with 2 layers of door to prevent traffic noise. The ancient building certainly looks grand with the stone-carved ornaments & statues at the entrance. But it certainly wasn’t easy to take a fully unobstructed photo of the entire architecture without any traffic in a congested city like HCMC. 😛

Finally I managed to grab some banh mi lunch (Vietnamese baguette) from a cafe nearby. All energised again, I made my way to the famous Saigon Central Post Office.

The iconic Saigon Central Post Office that doesn't look like a post office ;)

The iconic Saigon Central Post Office that doesn’t look like a post office 😉

Actually, I wasn’t sure I had arrived at the post office, since the sign at its main entrance was in Vietnamese (above the clock). This yellow architecture with green windows was constructed between 1886 & 1891 during the French colonial times, hence you can see the Gothic, Renaissance & French influences to the building. Even as I entered the beautiful building, it didn’t give me the feel of a working post office. It looked more like a busy European railway station. It was also quite unbelievable that this place has been in operation for over a century, as it was very well-maintained. Love the vaulted roof, elaborate furnishings & beautiful tiled floor 🙂

Sending a postcard home from the impressive Saigon Central Post Office

Sending a postcard home from the impressive Saigon Central Post Office

I had a mission to fulfill at the Saigon Central Post Office, which was to send a postcard home & hopefully receive it soon upon my return. After browsing the wide selection of postcards, handmade 3D greeting cards & local handicrafts at the kiosk in the middle of the post office, I bought the beautiful postcard you see above. The total cost of the postcard + stamp for a Singapore-bound letter was a mere 16,000 VND (about S$1). Kept my fingers really cross that I’d receive it back home, although I also didn’t want to pin too high hopes as I’ve heard people who didn’t get theirs in the end.

But lady luck was with me & I received the postcard in my mailbox exactly 1 week after I sent it out! Woohoo~

Just across the road from Saigon Central Post Office, is the most famous symbol of the city – Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. The Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn (its local name) was a cathedral constructed by the French colonists between 1863 and 1880 in the downtown of Saigon, using building materials imported from France. Despite its age, this neo-Romanesque style cathedral looks marvellous from any angle. Nonetheless, I found the best shot was taken from the flower garden with the granite Virgin Mary statue in front of the architectural masterpiece.

Admire the majestic architecture with 2 60m tall bell towers standing behind Virgin Mary statue

Admire the majestic architecture with 2 60m tall bell towers standing behind Virgin Mary statue

Needless to say, there were throngs of tourists visiting the cathedral & the post office building. But strangely, the atmosphere around was tranquil, & not as rowdy as compared to the lively scene around Ben Thanh Market. I also went into the cathedral to take a peek at the sacred church interiors with gorgeous stained glass mosaic windows.

saigon-notre-dame-cathedral-2

Do note that the church is only open to visitors either in the morning from 8–11 am or afternoon from 2–4 pm. So do check the time before you make your way there, otherwise you may be disappointed that you don’t get to fully appreciate the elaborate craftsmanship of Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. I’ve read that the church is popular as a wedding venue, so see if you are lucky enough to witness one when you visit!

Compared to the earlier part of the touristy day, I thought I enjoyed myself better at these fine architecture of great French influence. Guess I am still very much the type who prefers to see beautiful things, rather than shop or explore history. 😛

How about you? Which part of my tourist ritual do you prefer? 😉

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