Who said post offices were boring?
Published/Last edited or updated: 23rd August, 2017
The Saigon Post Office is no ordinary place to buy stamps. The building is one of the country's finest examples of French colonial architecture and one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks.
Located across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral at Cong xa Paris square, the Saigon Central Post Office was designed by French architect Alfred Foulhoux and built between 1886 and 1891. It is often erroneously credited to Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel tower fame.
The elegant building features dramatic flourishes in the form of a large clock and ornaments bearing the names of important scientists. If you can believe it, the post office’s current bright hue was a fix from an even brighter paint job when the building underwent renovations in 2015. The glaring neon canary yellow was met with public outcry and it was repainted to this relatively subtler hue, a bit closer to the original mellow yellow.
Striking vaulted ceilings and an enormous portrait of Ho Chi Minh make an impression upon entering. Flanking the entrance are two original maps, one of Saigon and its surrounds (1892) and the other of telegraphic routes of South Vietnam and Cambodia (1936).
Millennials can explore the novelty of “telephone booths” for “international calls” and (gasp) un-electronic mail. Wizards will be fascinated by muggle mail, which does not utilise owls or any sort of magic.
Other than sending selfies to loved ones, the post office is still operating so give the ol’ fashioned way a go. There are desks for writing postcards and a queue for buying stamps and sending parcels. There are also souvenirs shops and currency exchange.
The Saigon Central Post Office is a must see on a day of sightseeing in District 1, which includes Notre Dame Cathedral just across the street and Reunification Palace. It’s also a great spot to visit in the evenings, especially on weekends as the front is a favourite hangout spot for young friends and couples. Combine with a stroll down “book street” on Nguyen Van Binh, which runs beside the post office.
No word on if Duong Van Ngo is still around (we didn’t see him when we stopped by in 2017). Much has been written about the city’s last public letter writer, who has worked at the post office since he was 17 and has been translating Vietnamese, English and French letters for decades. If you are lucky, take the opportunity to meet a vestige of a bygone era.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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