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