“We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.”
Cecile, myself and the Overseas Adventure Travels (OAT) group landed in Saigon this afternoon. Before checking into the Nahtha 3 Hotel near the center of town, we went to see the Cathedral of Notre Dame which marks the center of the city’s French colonial heritage. Though not as grand as the one in Paris, it is still a beautiful site to visit. It boasts high towers, stained glass windows, wooden pews and classic plaid floor tiles. There is also a towering Virgin Mary in the backdrop. Unlike the other Southeast Asian cities we have visited thus far which are predominately Buddhist, Vietnam is about 55% Buddhist.
After seeing the Cathedral we then went across the street to see Saigon’s Central Post Office that began construction in 1886. It’s French colonial architecture makes it another renowned standout for the city. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same architect who engineered the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is fully functional and a top tourist attraction. It also has a portrait of Ho Chi Minh on the back wall. Cecile and I had our photo taken in front of the stunning, yellow flowering apricot tree. We then went to the Saigon La Poste Cafe next door and created a post card of our facial images behind red cardboard cutouts. In addition to the Chinese New Year festivities still going on, the Vietnamese are also celebrating their New Year (TET). Many of the commercial buildings in the center of town, are all lit up. Some of the lights are leftover from the Christmas Holidays. The photographs I have taken here are of colorful red and yellow dragons, merchants like the Beer Club and Diamond Department store decorating their exterior with colorful lights and decorations. I also photographed street vendors that were out in mass, locals and tourists enjoying early evening strolls and a son and his mother having a tender moment while waiting for customers to buy their wares. It is a reminder that all we have are these precious moments to enjoy and savor as life goes by in a flash.