YOUR INSIDER'S HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS GUIDE
IN HO CHI MINH CITY 🇻🇳 SINCE 2008
SAIGON INSPIRATION ATTRACTIONS HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS SAIGON THEN AND NOW
I was born in Saigon and I remember it as a busy, modern and glorious city. I see my growing years in Saigon as memories to be treasured, while also feeling a sense of loss as I see the changes take place.
Treasured Memories of Saigon
My city is a treasured memory. There were lots of greenery around, from the city centre to my area in District 8, which is approximately 30 minutes away. There was a house next to mine and in between, we had a little river and a pond with fish farms nearby. My grandfather had a little pig farm at his house which is still my favourite place in the world. I enjoyed playing with the piglets, watching them eat, and occasionally showering them. I also remember my brother and I had the same hobby of collecting ladybugs and dragonflies from the pond.
Our uncle’s house was just 100 metres away, and we often went there to play with his two boys. He had two giant coconut trees, and raised a lot of chickens and ducks in his backyard. My father’s house was originally in District 10, about a 10 minute ride to the city centre. We often visited our relatives over the weekends and I was always excited to go because I enjoyed the sightseeing.
A Display of Different Lifestyles
I would say the city was a display of different lifestyles—well-dressed people on expensive scooters and not too many cars at that time. Saigon did have large buildings, but mostly hotels such as Majestic, New World and Caravelle, and including our church. My parents regularly brought us to one of the biggest churches: Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in District 3 and what i always seem to remember how people just smelled so good. I saw everyone queue up neatly before and after church, and they would leave feeling happier and at peace.
The road was huge and lined with trees and you could smell the freshness of the air, especially along Tran Hung Dao, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, and Pasteur Streets. There were no bus or train services back then, so people only used scooters to travel, but traffic was never crazy and disorganised.
Moving to Perth
When I was 19 years old, I went to Perth to attend university. I was curious to explore Australia. Compared to cities like Saigon, Sydney or Melbourne, Perth was a rural area and was undergoing development. It wasn’t too crowded although there was public transport like buses and trains and strict traffic rules. Buses were chartered to transfer students between school and home. During the peak period, trains provided extra capacity to serve university students who lived far from the city.
There were many big, tall buildings in the city for offices; apartments; convention centers; hotels and many others. I found a full time job after my studies until 2016. I then decided to return to Vietnam for a break, and to start realising my dream of running a small business, and applying what I have learnt over the years in Australia.
Barely Recognisable Home
Unfortunately, Saigon now is much different than my treasured memories. What I see instead of trees for fresh air and shade, are new houses. The canal was covered without much planning which leaves me puzzled. Fish farms no longer exist, the parks and children’s playgrounds have been replaced by houses and more houses.
Public transportation exists, but it’s slightly slow and doesn’t seem to be properly directed. Way too many scooters are being used to carry goods which seem dangerous. People are everywhere and they seem to be rushing unnecessarily. The road is no longer as huge and people do not always obey traffic signs and rules.
The image of kindness and public politeness is slowly being lost, replaced by individualistic decisions and selfish actions. Yes there are many new buildings, but not really many attempts to improve Vietnamese’s life.
Hope For The Future
I may feel a little disappointed since I came back, but that does not mean that things cannot get better. The authorities do need to cooperate with each other and take their responsibilities seriously. More huge buildings may be a sign of a developing country, but in that growth, we also need to look at how people’s lives can be improved.
I would love to see all the treasures of my city and improve them for the next generation. In this era of technology, people may seem more laidback and less active, especially children. I found it extremely hard to find a park in each community, when I used to be surrounded by a few all over Australia, and in my childhood in Saigon.
Public transport needs to be in place, so people can have another choice for transportation. If we have consistent transportation, people will prefer to use those than their own vehicles and traffic congestion may then finally clear.
*Oanh is a reader of City Pass Guide and the opinions expressed in this article are entirely hers.
SAIGON INSPIRATION ATTRACTIONS HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS ARCHITECTURE IN SAIGON
The architecture of Ho Chi Minh City is a splendid mix of Vietnam’s historical heritage, from French colonial villas to modern steel and glass monuments.
The top architectural sights for tourists date back to the time when Saigon, the “Pearl of Indochina” was the capital of French Indochina. More has been added to the cultural heritage since then and we see interesting times ahead in terms of modern architecture.
Based on the Hotel de Ville in Paris (Paris City Hall), Saigon’s City Hall was finished in 1908. It proudly sits at the beginning of Nguyen Hue street, showing off a beautiful building style. Nowadays it harbors the main office of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee and is closed to the public.
The Central Post Office is a popular tourist spot and THE place in HCMC to send postcards from. And of course a famous monument among travelers for its beautiful paintings and architecture, finished 1891 by Gustave Eiffel, a splendid French engineer who also built the Eiffel Tower.
The Reunification Palace is an important historical landmark and a popular tourist attraction, because the day the building’s main gate was broken in 1975 marks the end of the American War. The palace was designed by Ngo Viet Thu for South Vietnam’s former President.
The Bitexco Financial Tower is shaped like a lotus bud, a meaningful flower to the Vietnamese. The skyscraper, which is with its 68 floors the tallest building of Vietnam at the moment, is a prominent landmark that stands for the rapidly developing economy of Ho Chi Minh City and shapes today’s skyline.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is located right across the Saigon Central Post Office and is one of the architectural marvels of the past. It was built in 1877 and all the building materials were imported from France.
The Saigon Opera House is also a famous landmark and popular sight for tourists in Ho Chi Minh City. It was built in 1897 by the French architect Eugene Ferret and is open to visitors during events.
The architecture in Ho Chi Minh City evolved from the colonial time, over the period of South Vietnam and the reunification until today. More skyscrapers and other interesting, modern monuments are in the planning and in the making, so we witness the development of an interesting skyline. Unfortunately, with the creation of new things, many historic buildings get destroyed. Often in a sneaky way behind the backs of the residents, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes sheer greed.
We hope the Government will preserve the country’s monuments heritage as they constitute one of the main attractions for tourists traveling to Vietnam.
If you are looking for more ideas for things to see in Saigon, you can check our following pages:
SAIGON INSPIRATION ATTRACTIONS HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE
One of HCMC’s most popular attractions, Saigon Central Post Office is the largest post office in Vietnam. Built between 1886 and 1891 by renowned architect Gustave Eiffel, the building’s vaulted roof and arched windows are reminiscent of early European railway stations. An enormous picture of Ho Chi Minh overlooks proceedings.
Sightseeing & Shopping
Even if you don’t have a bundle of postcards to send to the relatives back home, you should still drop into Saigon Central Post Office to admire its interior. Check the working phone booths, and the beautiful, handpainted maps on either side of the interior walls that depict Saigon and the surrounding area in 1892, and the former telegraph lines of Cochin China. Souvenirs stalls off either side of the entrance sell the usual memorabilia, including a large selection of fictional “Tintin in Vietnam” covers.
Posting a Letter
This is very much a working post office. You can send letters and parcels (don’t wrap them up till you’re at the counter), change money, buy stamps and books, and browse a good selection of collector coin and stamp sets. Across the street from Saigon Central Post Office lies Notre Dame Cathedral, so you can explore and photograph both sights in the one visit.
Opening Hours & Entrance Fees
Opening hours: From 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
These are the opening hours for the working post office if visitors plan to post letters and parcels. For sightseeing however, the building may be accessible until later in the day.
Entrance fee: Free
New Color of the Saigon Central Post Office
The Central Post Office got its new paint job at the end of 2014, but many people are unhappy about it. While the new color sets a nice contrast to the red Notre Dame Church, it is too overwhelming for most.