Saigon is the biggest city of Vietnam, although it’s not the capital. The numbers are somewhere around 3,4 million people living in the inner city and 10 million including surrounding areas. The weather in Saigon can be from real hot, around 40 degrees in summer, to very wet during monsoon. The best months to visit if you can’t stand heat and wet are between Nov and March. There are a few things to see and experience.
When you visit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), first of everything that can overwhelm you is the traffic, as there are around 5 million scooters/motorbikes alone. More info in another post about that. The second impressive or overwhelming thing to see is the War Remnants Museum. You can read more info about that in associated post.
Then there are three things left to see or do in Saigon. Visiting the independence palace, which got most of its fame from the war time. Visiting the Notre Dame Basilica, and the post office.
The palace was built by the French in 1873. It was referred to as The Governor’s Palace, as all governors of French Indochine used it as their residence. In 1945 the Japanese took over from the French and occupied the palace, but after it’s surrender in WWII, the French returned in the palace. In 1954 the palace got in South Vietnamese hands and in 1955 it was named the Independence Palace. The palace got bombed by planes in 1962 in a coup attempt. It was heavily damaged and therefore the leader decided to demolish it and build a new palace. The construction started in 1962 and it was completed in 1966.
In 1975 a US helicopter landed on the roof of the palace to pick up employees and people. Many tried to get on the last chopper out of Saigon. Not much later a North Vietnamese tank broke trough the gate and completed the fall of Saigon. The palace was renamed to Reunification Palace.
The price for an entry ticket is 30.000 VND, equal to 1,5 dollar. It is located in district 1 and at walking distance from the backpacker area of Bui Vien/ Pham Nhu Lao.
The first stone was laid in 1877 and it was completed three years later by the French. All the original materials were imported from France.Two bells were placed in 1895. The total height of the Basilica is 60 meters.
It was in 1962 that the then pope gave it the status of basilica. In 2005 it is said that the statue Virgin Mary shed a tear which attracted huge crowds.
Nowadays it is a tourist attraction, although there are still masses being held in it.
Central Post Office
The central post office is located next to the Notre Dame Basilica. Except for its design and style there is nothing to see, although it is a tourist attraction. The post office is built between 1886 and 1891. It has French, Gothic and Renaissance influences that makes it special. It’s good that you can visit the post office and Notre Dame together in an hour.
Walking street is supposed to be an attraction, but there went something wrong with the planning maybe. Walking street is a wide part in the middle of two roads. One on either side. That makes the walking experience quite disappointing because of the traffic noise, which you just want to escape in every corner of Saigon. Another missing point at walking street is a shopping experience. Beside a couple of restaurants and a handful shops, there is nothing to walk around for. The only interesting thing at walking street can be the building of the Peoples Committee. Great design that looks a bit like that of the post office.
Opinions are individual. It all depends what you are looking for and expecting. Some people prefer Hanoi and some Saigon. One thing for sure is that the two cities are different in a lot of aspects.
For more info about Saigon: https://www.vietnamonline.com/destination/ho-chi-minh-city.html