There are so many places I want to visit in this big world that I still have yet to get to – Vietnam is one of them. I’ve always been fascinated with Vietnam and read way too many history books on it when I was in school (when I should have been studying algebra and economics). I’m excited to have Keith Hancock, an expat and travel writer living in Vietnam share a few thing to do in Saigon. Make sure to check out his site Saigon Districts for more ideas on things to do in Saigon and throughout Vietnam. Cheers!
By Keith Hancock, guest blogger
Living and working in Saigon is a fabulous experience. I knew in advance that the city would hold many secrets and many surprises. The biggest surprise for me, however, was simply how beautiful the place is. Open spaces, broad tree-lined boulevards, terrific shops, parks and most of all, some absolutely stunning architecture. Whilst people criticise the French rule as having benefitted only the French people and not the poor Vietnamese; it can be said, without doubt, that the buildings they left behind, benefit everybody. Four of my personal favourites, lie within a few hundred yards of each other.
Notre Dame Basilica, is an amazing example of French colonial build. Designed and built between 1863 and 1880, it stands an impressive 180 feet tall, to the top of its twin bell towers. Materials were imported from France, the bricks from Marseilles and the stained glass from Chartres. It dominates a square called Ben Nghe, right in the heart of district one. It has become something of a focal point for Vietnamese people. Many young people use the square as a meeting point and young couples can be seen, standing or sitting around chatting throughout the day.
The Old Post Office is in the same square, just to the right of the cathedral as you look at it. It is not often, that one singles out a post office for special mention, when talking about beautiful buildings. But then again, not many cities have such a post office. It is magnificent, it looks more like an old railway station, but it is only when you go inside that you realize the true magnificence of this wonderful structure. Its arched windows and pastel shades of paintwork, lend an air of wonder to a building which attracts many visitors.
Just round the corner from the square, you will find a building that used to be L’Hotel De Ville de Saigon, but nowadays it is the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Building. It stands proudly at one end of Nguyen Hue Street. Again, it is decorated in the same pastel shades that adorn the post office. The columns and arched windows on the front are very typical of French buildings of that era. It has a tall clock tower that proudly displays the Vietnamese flag every day. The gardens to the front are beautifully manicured and contain a superb statue of Ho Chi Minh. This has become a favourite photo stop for thousands of Vietnamese.
A short, pleasant walk down to the river from here, will find you looking at The Majestic Hotel. This again, is a wonderful example of what the French had to offer by way of architecture. It dominates the riverfront here in Saigon and has become a very popular meeting place for the well to do. The roof top bar affords delightful views out over the river and on to District two.
Have you visited Saigon? What are your top things to do in Saigon or things to see?
Guest Blogger Profile:
Keith Hancock is a singer/songwriter and writer based in Saigon, Vietnam. He has lived in Asia for more than 5 years and travels throughout the continent researching and writing. He owns and writes for Saigon Districts, an informative website about life in Vietnam’s largest city, aimed at the expat community. Keith is one of only two DIAMOND STATUS rated writers on Ezine articles in the whole of Indochina He has had work published in magazines and websites in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Asia. His great loves are music and travel, but he writes on a whole range of subjects.