French Colonial Architecture in Saigon

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I adore Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). It is vibrant, exciting and everything that a big city should be. Rich in cultural heritage, its architecture reflects its checkered history. Ancient Asian design, French colonial buildings and modern glass towers all rub shoulders, to amazing effect. It is though, the French architecture that excites me the most.

The Majestic Hotel

On the River front in Saigon stands the Majestic Hotel. If ever a hotel was more deserving of its name, I haven’t found it. This superb six-story building looks out over the river, opposite the quay from where the tour boats leave every evening. It was in one of the river view rooms here that Graham Greene wrote his classic novel, The Quiet American. The roof top bar here is a wonderful flashback to days gone by. I love to sit enjoying a coffee while enjoying the view out over the river, and on to my home in District 2.

Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City Peoples’ Committee Building

Just a short walk up Nguyen Hue from here you will find the Ho Chi Minh City Peoples’ Committee Building. This is the former Hotel de Ville de Saigon, not open to the general public, it is however, a major landmark in the city. People come in their thousands to have their photograph taken in front of the statue of the former great leader, which stands in the gardens to the front of the building.

Saigon

The Old Post Office

From The Committee Building it is another short walk along Dong Khoi into Ben Nghe Square. This popular meeting place is a delightful, though busy square still in the heart of the city’s District 1. Two of my favorite buildings stand almost side by side here. The Old Post Office is an amazing building. It is impossible to believe that anyone nowadays, would think a simple post office would be deserving of a building of such stature. Its imposing arched windows and magnificent clock are a mere tempter for what lies within. Its huge arched ceiling and permanent maps on the walls are simply superb. At the far end of the business hall, a giant statue of Ho Chi Minh, dominates proceedings.

Saigon

The Notre Dame Basilica

The main attraction of the square though is The Notre Dame Basilica. Saigon’s own Catholic cathedral was built between 1863 and 1880. Its twin white bell towers stand proudly over the square at a total height of 180 feet. It is a superb example of French design and build. The red bricks were imported from Marseilles and the windows built in Chartres, before being shipped out, whole, and fitted. It is a glorious building, though photo opportunities can be difficult. Such is its appeal, there are always tour buses parked out front. In the garden that stands in front of the church, a wonderful white statue of the Virgin Mary, stands guard.

Saigon

And there you have it; four of my own personal favorite buildings, in a town that is simply full of wonderful architecture.

Keith Hancock is a singer/songwriter and writer based in Saigon, Vietnam. He has lived in Asia for more than 5 years and travels throughout the continent researching and writing. He owns and writes for www.saigondistricts.com, an informative website about life in Vietnam’s largest city, aimed at the expat community. Keith is one of only two DIAMOND STATUS rated writers on Ezine articles in the whole of Indochina. He has had work published in magazines and websites in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Asia. His great loves are music and travel, but he writes on a whole range of subjects.

2 Comments

  1. den

    December 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    The red bricks were imported from Marseilles and the windows built in Chartres!!!!

  2. IOA

    February 5, 2014 at 6:54 am

    For some reason, old styles corner hotel/buildings in Europe are so attractive. Even in London, the listed corner buildings have the most character rather than brand new Hilton. I think this is the difference between America for being a box of buildings compared to the most of Europe.

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