Not many cities in the world can claim to have a central post office that is a major tourist attraction. Not many cities in the world can boast a post office designed and built by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. Then again, not many cities have anything that comes close to the Saigon Central Post Office.
This superb example of French colonial architecture was conceived, designed and built between 1886 and 1891, when Vietnam was part of French Indochina. Although still being a working post office, it is today, one of the main tourist attractions in the city. The vaulted roof and arched windows look more in keeping with a Vistorian Railway Station than a post office.
It sits at the top end of Dong Khoi in District 1, in the same square as the impressive Notre Dame Basilica, making it a must-see place on any tourist itinerary. The front of the building is decorated with rectangle cases. These have the names of people who have left lasting impressions in the field of telegrams and communications. Within the central arch on the frontage, is a huge clock. The window frames are creatively designed with decorative stone uprights bearing human-headed capitals. The green window shutters are reminiscent of much French colonial architecture.
The large front entrance has some rather attractive iron work and as you move inside you are immediately greeted with a larger than life portrait of Ho Chi Ming looking down on business proceedings from the opposite wall. Just inside the doorway their are two large maps painted on the side walls. These are entitled “Lignes telegraphiques du Sud Vietnam et Cambodge 1892” (Telegraphic lines of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia 1892) “Saigon et ses environs 1892” (Sai Gon and its environment 1892).
The layout is superb and is like stepping back into a far more gentle of times. The huge vaulted ceiling has a galss canopy. The tellers sit along each side and just inside the doorway there are old style telephone boxes along each side. There is a souvenir shop selling all kinds of souvenirs and bric-a-brac. But it is worth remembering that in any other aspect this is a working post office dealing with the everyday needs pof Saigonâ€™s general public.
There are benches to enable tourists to take a rest from the heat of the day outside. The whole place has an air of calm professionalism about it. The women serving at the counters are dressed in their Ao Dai, the traditional long dress with trousers underneath. They generally speak very good English and are only to happy to deal with general enquiries.
This really is a remarkable building and reminds the traveller of days gone by, the great age of world wide postal services. With the advent of the internet and email, these services are slowly disappearing, but one get s the feeling that this grand old building will be accepting letters and selling stamps for a long time to come.