The Other Notre Dame
The name Notre Dame generally evokes images of the famed Notre Dame in Paris, but there is another. Notre Dame Cathedral is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most prominent attractions and it still serves as an active religious institution for locals, who can attend Sunday mass. The structure includes twin Romanesque bell towers that stand at nearly 196 feet tall. All the building materials for the cathedral were imported from France, and construction spanned three years from start to finish – from 1877 to 1880. While the building itself holds an important place on this list of architectural wonders, it is what’s outside that has drawn curiosity in recent years due to the story of the religious miracle that was said to have taken place there. In 2005, witnesses claim to have seen a single tear streak down the right side of the Virgin Mary statue that stands out front. Locals swarmed the city center to catch a glimpse, forcing authorities to stop traffic around the cathedral.
From Saigon with Love
Right next door to the cathedral is the Central Post Office, constructed between 1886 and 1891. This still-operating post office, which features a bright yellow exterior framed with white accents, is known for its distinctly French Colonial architecture, intricately designed marble floors, and looping arches. Amid the decidedly European touches hangs a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the end of the hall, reminding visitors that they are still, in fact, in Vietnam. Original oil paintings adorn the walls, which also feature two painted maps – one depicting the postal route from southern Vietnam to Cambodia and another outlining the local area. Travelers can visit the post office to purchase souvenirs, send postcards home, and visit the last remaining “public letter writer,” who has been translating letters into English, French, and Vietnamese for almost three decades. Nearly a nonagenarian, Duong Van Ngo has become a regular fixture here, setting up shop every morning as one of the few constants in an ever-evolving cityscape.
If you’d like to experience Ho Chi Minh City for yourself, we would love to welcome you aboard one of our Charms of the Mekong or Riches of the Mekong river cruises.