City streets, Ho Chi Minh, 2013

our lady churchWe stopped briefly by the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, a beautiful brick church in downtown Ho Chi Minh. A vestige of French colonialism.  It’s precariously located on the edge of a rotary — our bus driver had to sweep around multiple times before there was a gap in traffic during which we could be unloaded.

Construction for the cathedral began in 1863 and completed in 1880. The two, imposing bell towers reach a height of 190 feet. The bricks from which the cathedral was built were all imported from Marseille; in fact, all building materials were imported from France.

Across the street and in front of the church is a tiny square, a flower garden where a statue of Our Lady of Peace stands to this day. The interior of the church was modest: white-washed and wooden pews.

interior of central post officeWe then walked westward across the street to the Saigon Central Post Office [Bưu điện Trung tâm Sài Gòn]. The post office is now more of a tourist attraction than it is a functional building. Its architecture is a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and French influences. Some sources say that the building was designed by Gustave Eiffel — yes, that Gustave Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower –, but Wikipedia claims that it was actually designed by architects August Henri Vildieu and Alfred Foulhoux.

One can still buy traditional post stationery and even use an old-fashioned glue pot to stick stamps to letters. We unfortunately had only half an hour to explore both the church and the post office, so the most we were able to do was stand outside and snap some pictures. If, however, you fancy a taste of the old-world romance, this article has a couple beautiful pictures of the post office. 🙂

saigon central post office

for some reason I found this balcony interesting

for some reason I found this balcony interesting

a busy cart on a street corner

a busy cart on a street corner

on the other side

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