Walking Tour in Saigon


Starting from your hotel, Saigon walking tour gives you mixture of old and new memories. 45 minutes on foot, we will make the past alive and enjoy the present with early day activities of locals. Despite the fact that modern high-rise buildings have begun to dominate the skyline in recent years there are still many fine examples of French colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Saigon Post Office and the former Hotel de Ville. A stroll down Dong Khoi Street, the Rue Cantina of Graham Greene’s ‘The Quiet American’, will reveal more colonial classics like the Continental, Grand and Majestic hotels as well as dozens of tempting boutiques and galleries.

From rue Catinat to “Dong Khoi” Street|

“Caninat” is the name of escorted carrier, the ship first time opened fire to attack Danang in 1958 and Saigon 1959. Originally, Catina was name of French governor who lived in late 17 century and early 18 century and of course it didn’t relate to anything belongs to this colonial country!

Only 1 km long beginning by cathedral at one end and ending up with Saigon river front at the other end. it ‘s  very short street but it have been  witnessed  every change of city’s fate in the past, present and will be in future. we can say this street is a pulse and can listen to heart beating of the whole city.

French people compared this street with Canebière of Marseille where has most of luxurious shops of French elites. Hotel Majestic was built in 1920, Grand hotel 1921, Caravelle, Hotel Continental was prominent as  the oldest built in 1887s, Opera house in 1900, old post office are all prominent dots of the street. When French left and replaced by American. Catinat also reborn with new name “liberal street” Tu-Do. French structures were still remained but functions were changes. CIA headquarter based here, Intelligent police head quarter and bars for GIs appeared as a sight of war still happening away from here. The street was renamed again after American war “Dong Khoi” – remembrance of revolutionary of South Vietnamese against government in 1960s.

Opera House.

It was built in the late of 19th century by a French architect according to Opera Garnier in Paris. The theatre was built in flamboyant Gothic style. The facade is trimmed with inscriptions and reliefs shaped like the museum Petit Palais in Paris.

There are 559 seats inside the building and it was used as the home of the Lower House assembly of South Vietnam. Until 1975, it was used as a theater for opera, ballet, orchestra concerts

The city theater nowadays is well-known for various types of performances such as international and city orchestra, traditional music, drama and even for ballet performance. Specially, every Saturday morning, out door performance is weekly organized for city people and tourists. At night there is a lot of young people gathering, hanging about, meeting up with friends, chatting the night away…

Hotel Continental

In 1878, Pierre Cazeau, a home-appliance and construction material manufacturer, started building the Hotel Continental with the purpose of providing the French traveler, a French style of luxury accommodation after a long cruise to the new continent. This project took 2 years, and in 1880 the “Hotel Continental” was inaugurated.

By the beginning of World War II, the Hotel Continental hosted the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (who won the 1913 Nobel Prize for literature), the award-winning writer Andre Malraux, whose “Man’s Fate” won the 1933 Prix Goncourt, and then the British writer Graham Greene, long-term guest in room 214, who conceived the work “The Quiet American” about the transitional period between the French Colonist and the American Empire in the Vietnam War. The Continental features prominently in “The Quiet American” in both its film and book forms.  The Continental also is a central locale in the movie “Indochine” which won two Academy Awards and one Golden Globe.

A side from “quiet American” Hotel Continental was frequently referred to by the phrase “Radio Catinat”, since this was the rendezvous point where correspondents, journalists, politicians and businessmen talked about politics, the business news, and current events. It’s not by coincidence that it was said that “If the walls of the Hotel Continental could speak, they could tell you many stories.”

Givral cafe 169 Đồng Khởi

Although it has been gone recently for new tasteless Vincom building but Givral opposites with Catinat once very famous because”The Quiet American” while filming here has restored it as the year 60-70. During the war, international journalists were sitting there to collect information about the Vietnam War. Pham Xuan An, a very famous intelligence often sit here.

Rex hotel

Originally built as a French garage in the early 20th century, the Rex Hotel was expanded into a 6-floor trading centre in 1959,  owned by Mr and Madame Ung Thi, King Bao Dai’s relatives.

It was leased to the American Cultural Center in 1960, at which time the Abraham Lincoln Library was established on the ground floor. During the Vietnam war the American Information Service made its base at the hotel, which soon became the favorite haunt of U.S. officers and the scene of daily press briefings to foreign correspondents, or “five o’clock follies”, as they were called. Now the roof top has been revised as it was in 1970s.

Hochiminh City Hall.

Hochiminh City Hall or Hochiminh city people’s committee head office was built from March 1898 in a French colonial style. The building was designed by the famous French architect P. Gardes’s. It is said that it took 11 years and inaugurated in 1909 after many times changing main contractor and designers. There were too much argument over it’s exterior.On the top of the building is the famous bell tower which is placed on a pyramid like pedestal. The presence of bell towers is adapted from Renaissance architecture and is a feature that is common to most European town halls. During the Vietnam war. Saigon city hall was administrative building of former Saigon-Gia Dinh and witnessed a lot of chaos of political crisis as well as anti-war protests carried out by city people. It is not open to the public because this is a working government building.

Especially in front of the building is a statue of Uncle Ho Park, where the statue of Uncle Ho with children sculptured by artist Diep Minh Chau. The statue reflected important period of Uncle Ho’s life 9-years resistance war against French army from 1945 to 1954. Uncle Ho and his cabinet had to withdraw to Cao Bang, lived in extremely hard conditions but full of hope and persistence for the final victory of Dien Bien Phu. It shows great love of Uncle Ho towards Vietnamese children.

General Post Office

Does it remind you of the European railway stations? was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel, the fellow who also built the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Built between 1886 and 1891, Saigon Post Office is a functioning and also the largest post office in Vietnam and worth visiting just for its architecture.

The special thing about the 2 maps below is that although they are as old as the Saigon Post Office building, the details drawn are still sharply retained. Up till now, researchers are still uncertain about the material used to draw these maps. You’ll find on the maps captions in French, ‘Saigon et ses environs 1892′ which means ‘Sai Gon and its environment 1892′.

The map obvious old Saigon was much smaller than now and surrounded with swampy land and ‘Lignes telegraphiques du Sud Vietnam et Cambodge 1936′ which translate to ‘Telegraphic lines of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia 1892 which was French colony called Cochinchina.

A old Man and 60 years working voluntary as love letter writer.

Walking inside, you can see a little old man sitting at the corner of long table, does a professional job and strange romance: Write a love letter for customer. Every week Monday – Wednesday – Friday, 14 years with the red tape on the arms, small plat “Here is instructions and help writing” It becomes more soulful, romantic and mysterious as addition for the beauty of this building.

His name is Duong Van Ngo, 79 years old. He helps everyone who needs his help or translations from Vietnamese to English. Specially, he always keep customer secret and ready help for free.

Ngo has worked at the post office since he was 17. He says he never missed a day of work, not even during the wars. He speaks the languages of the former occupiers fluently to this day. He learned French in school and English from American soldiers.

Ngo has heard thousands of such stories, some beautiful and others tragic. He searched for the children of US soldiers and relatives of Vietnamese citizens who escaped as boat people after the war. He’s witnessed much suffering. He’s not giving any details. His customers pay him for his silence.

Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame was designed by architect J. Bourad. The church was constructed between 1877 and completed in 1880. The whole church is 93m in length, 35.5 m wide and 57 m high (from ground to the top of the bell tower) After the project design was chosen and also the architect J. Bourad was a direct supervision of this work. All materials cement, steel screws were to bring from France. Especially outside of the building red bricks made in Marseille and its color is unchanged till now.

Thank you for your reading!

Hong Duc

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About Insiderjourneyguidehelpdesk

Local guide manager-Vietnam
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