Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ho Chi Minh City Tour (HCMC Trip Day 1)

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. Visiting the city means- we have flown to Vietnam for the third time. In our first trip to Vietnam- we visited Hanoi and Halong Bay. Then City of Hue via Hai Van Pass, Danang, Hoi An, and My Son in second visit, and then the third- Ho Chi Minh City. This was our first time to travel with two of our friends- Chuah and Chong.

Middle of the year, HCMC was very warm, humid and with almost no wind at all. Well, the weather was a bit unbearable even for those who come from long-warm-and-humid tropical country, like us. According to one local, this is just the beginning of long hot summer. Despite hot weather, the city was overall clean, filled with some modern sky scrapers, and full with motorists. The people were polite, like to hang around the street at night, and compared to our country, moving around with slower pace. Air-conditioned malls and eateries were limited, with the food and souvenirs sold with higher prices compared to places like Bangkok or Phnom Penh.

We took a night flight to Ho Chi Minh City. We had a night rest at Saigon Pink 3 Hotel. The hotel was located nearby Nguyen Hue Road, in proximity with some historical monuments of the city. Early first day morning, we started to explore the city by foot. Starting from Nguyen Hue Road, we visited the Saigon Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City Hall, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, the Independence Palace, and the War Museum. In the afternoon, we roamed around Saigon Square, Ben Thanh Market and along Le Loi Road till Wincom Center. We walked around Nguyen Hue Road again at night, before going back to hotel. We would like to bring you around with our photos.

8 am. Still consider early for metropolitan in Ho Chi Minh City. Most of the shops were still closed. There were not many people around Nguyen Hue- one of the most happening place in Ho Chi Minh City during night time.

Bitexco Tower with Saigon Skydeck on the top of it, is located beside Nguyen Hue Road. It was the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City.

Our breakfast- Vietnamese pho at Bun Bo Hue 44, located just a block away from our hotel (upper left). It was a simple small eatery, mostly visited by the locals (upper right). The beef noodle was nice, with a bit more sour and spicy compared to the pho in Hanoi. Free flow fresh vegetable was provided when we ordered local pho. 

The first building we went after our breakfast- Saigon Opera House, by foot, 5 minutes away from our hotel. Built in 1898 by the French architect- Eugene Ferret, it was an old building with strong influence of European design. The opera house is located beside Nguyen Hue Road, 100 meters away from Ho Chi Minh City Hall. If you are not a big fan of opera, a touch-and-go visit is recommended. Please be noted that there are two nude sculptures at the main entrance. Well, keeping the sculptures untouched demonstrates the acceptance of the local community to the Western culture. The construction of mass-transit station was ongoing during our visit, so the surrounding area was blocked by blue construction walls. More information about the opera house can be obtained from Lune website

Ho Chi Minh City Hall is another French Colonial style structure built in 1908, with elaborative sculptures outside the building. A bronze statue of Uncle Ho greeting his followers is placed in 2015 in front of the building. Although not open to the public, the city hall is still a very popular photo taking spot for tourists. The city hall is located at the end of Nguyen Hue Road.

The sculptures here are more elaborative than the Saigon Opera House.

From the city hall, we walked down Dong Khoi Road and passed by Vincom Center before reaching Notre Dame Cathedral. Vincom Center is a popular full air-conditioned shopping mall. We did not stop at the shopping mall in the morning, but after that visited the mall for a few times, for shopping, food, and enjoying the cooling air. Vincom Center is on the east side of city hall (if you are facing the city mall, Vincom Center is on your right).
Notre Dame Cathedral is located 150 meters away from Ho Chi Minh City Hall, along Dong Khoi Road. Built in 1880, two bell towers were raised 58 meters from the ground. The most unique feature of this building is- all the materials used in the construction were originally brought from France. However, many was replaced by locally made materials during the maintenance works thereafter. From what we can see, the cathedral is in fact in the middle of big traffic circle.

A closer look on the cathedral. The St. Marry statue in front of the cathedral was installed in 1959, replacing the statue of Pigneau de Behaine, which was removed in 1945. The cathedral is indeed a unique building in downtown. Diamond Plaza is located behind the cathedral.

We stopped at the main entrance to the cathedral and looked back, we could see the Vincom Center on our left.

Side view of the cathedral.

Interior of the cathedral with very high ceilings. It was cooling inside, even without air conditioner.

There is a bright yellow building next to the cathedral that catches every one's attention- Saigon Central Post Office. It was built in 1891. Some sources claimed that the post office shared the same designer with Eiffel Tower- Gustave Eiffel, but in fact, it was a work shared by Auguste Henri Vildieu and Alfred Foulhoux. Inconvenient truth? For us, it was lucky to know that Gustave Eiffel had nothing to do with that building. Why? You can find the answer inside.

There are some sculptures on the building.

Saigon Central Post Office building is small, stuffy, and flooded by visitors. The design was simple and neat, but not impressive. Designed by Gustave Eiffel? No way!

The free postcard rack was empty (upper left). However, the souvenirs and postcards on sales were piled up on the stall at the middle of the post office (upper right). There are two old maps showcasing the area around Saigon in late 19 century (lower right), with old fashioned phone booths located right below the maps. There are two wings on each side of the building squeezed by souvenir vendors. We found that most of the souvenirs were overpriced, compared to what we could get from Ben Thanh or along Le Loi Road.

The scene from the main entrance of the post office- Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, with many visitors gathered in between these two buildings.

A photo with our friends in front of the most unique building in Ho Chi Minh City- Saigon Notre Dame, before we continued our trip to the Independence Palace (or Reunification Palace in some maps) and the War Museum.

We had visited a few historical buildings in Ho Chi Minh City- Saigon Opera House, City Hall, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Saigon Central Post Office. Unlike Yangon, where most of the colonial buildings were abandoned, the French-built structures in Ho Chi Minh City have been transformed into tourist's attractions. By far, the most attractive building we found was the cathedral. Next, the Independence Palace and the War Museum.

More of our experiences in Vietnam are available too at:

Danang, City of Hue, Hoi An, & My Son
Hanoi & Halong Bay


  1. Hi... thank you very much for the trip and being our tour guide. I really appreciate it :-) I am your colleague A3-F08 :-)

    1. You are welcome. Looking forward for our next trip together in future.

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