The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire.
The building was designed by Alfred Foulhoux and features arched windows and wooden shutters, just as it would have in its heyday in the late 19th Century.
1. Design and construction of Saigon Central Post Office
The Saigon Central Post Office was constructed from 1886-1891 and depicts classic elements of Gothic, Renaissance and French colonial design. While some mistakenly credit Gustave Eiffel, the famed designer of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it was actually designed by French architect Alfred Foulhoux.
The post office features a unique, bright yellow exterior framed with white trim. Curved windows are elegantly framed with green shutters and a large clock is featured prominently at the building’s main entrance. The stunning, spacious interior has tall, domed ceilings with metal arches and a gorgeous patterned tile floor.
There are two painted maps inside the office – Lignes télégraphiques du Sud Vietnamet du Cambodge 1892 (Telegraphic lines of southern Vietnam and Cambodia 1892) depicts the postal route from southern Vietnam to Cambodia, and on the right side of the building is Saigon et ses environs, 1892 (Saigon and its surroundings), a local map.
2. European nostalgia
Tourists walking inside the Saigon Central Post Office will feel as though they’ve been temporarily whisked out of Asia and transported to a 20th century European train station.
The post office features polished old-school phone booths, original oil paintings on the walls, wooden countertops along the sides, old glue pots to place stamps on envelopes, and areas to write a letter to a loved one. The only landmark inside the building that betrays its true location is the large portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the end of the hall.Vu Pham Van /© Culture Trip
The Saigon Central Post Office is a wonderful place to marvel at extraordinary colonial architecture. The city has meticulously maintained this exquisite building and it is still in full operation. The office offers full postal services and also sells an array of postcards and stamps, making excellent souvenirs to bring back home.
3. A local icon at the post office
At the end of a wooden table inside the post office sits Mr. Duong Van Ngo, a man who has been recognized by the Vietnam Guinness Book of Records for 27 years spent writing letters for those who cannot write for themselves.
The 87-year-old writer is reportedly fluent in both English and French and continues to write letters every day despite his advanced age. He starts his working day at 8 a.m and ends at 3 p.m, writing several letters per day while charging 50 cents per page. Mr. Duong has become an icon at the post office over the past several years.