A leftover from the French occupation of the city, the Post Office is one of the better-preserved examples of the colonial period’s architecture. Finished in 1891, based on designs created by Gustav Eiffel, an architect famous for some other reason — any guesses? — it’s unlike other many other period buildings around town as things look sharp and clean. Even the large clock over the main entrance, which has been with the building since its construction, still works.
Walking inside you immediately enter the building’s expansive hall, where you are greeted by an extra-large picture of Ho Chi Minh himself. You may get the feeling that you’re in an older train station rather than a post office, as the high arched ceiling and wooden counters make it seem like you should be lining up to buy a ticket. The main attractions inside are two large eighteenth century maps which sit opposite each other on either side of the hall. One map features central Saigon and its surrounds, the other details the telegraph lines that covered southern Vietnam and Cambodia.
Besides being a fine example of colonial architecture, the Post Office is still completely functional. You can send and receive mail, buy stamps and postcards, or use the phone bank to make international calls. While it’s a great spot to buy some small souvenirs, or to send a quick postcard home, the most intriguing service offered is found under the portrait of Uncle Ho. At the table for Information and Writing Assistance, you may have the opportunity to meet Saigon’s last letter writer. Duong Van Ngo has been translating Vietnamese letters into English and French for over a decade. Fluent in three languages, he is surprisingly eager to talk to tourists, offering both stories and advice.
Typically, a steady stream of tourists visit the Post Office on any given day since it’s so close to most of Saigon’s other landmarks; it’s never too crowded but it’s never really empty. Most people just pop in, take a quick look at the maps, snap a picture and then leave; so the further you get from the door the less crowded you will find everything.
If you’re in the area, the Post Office is within walking distance of most of District 1’s highlights. Besides being spitting distance from Notre Dame, you are also only a 10-minute walk from the Saigon Opera House and the People’s Committee Building, the city’s other great examples of French architecture. You’re also close to quite a few of Saigon’s better museums; the Reunification Palace is only a few blocks away, while both the Museum of Ho Chi Minh and War Remnants Museum are within walking range.
By Max Murta.