Ho Chi Minh City is intense to say the least! Getting around by any means – foot, bicycle, motorbike, bus, or taxi – is a somewhat daunting experience. Supposedly public transportation is becoming more developed as the government tackles the rising traffic congestion. I am not feeling so hot again (heat and allergies) and wanted to try walking but even crossing the street is much more difficult here than in Hanoi or Phnom Penh, so after a few crossings I decided to use taxis to visit a few notable sites each day. The taxis are reasonable – you can get to most places for $5 or less – and you can find taxi companies that use meters which are the best way to avoid bogus taxi drivers taking advantage of travelers from other countries. The traffic is so horrific in Saigon think I decided to pass on the fun motorbikes this time as they seem extremely dangerous and most drivers do not offer their riders helmets.
“Traffic signals in Saigon are generally viewed as suggestions only, not the law. Although enforcement of traffic law has gotten better over the years, the problem is far too big for a few traffic cops to handle. Getting around Ho Chi Minh City is an adventure.”
Opera House – Today I visited beautiful Saigon Opera House on Le Loi Avenue. It was built at the turn of the 20th century by French architect Ferret Eugene. As does the Opera House in Hanoi the building resembles the Petit Palais in Paris. Restored in 1998 in honor of Saigon’s 300th birthday, the Opera House is in District 1 in the center of the city.
Notre Dame Cathedral – Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral is another magnificent building in Paris Square in the heart of the city. It’s the most famous landmark in Saigon and the core Cathedral of the city. The neo-Romanesque style architecture is breathtaking and there is a sacred atmosphere inside the basilica. The cathedral was built by French colonists between 1863 and 1880.
“Notre Dame Cathedral has two bell towers, reaching a height of over 190 feet. Following the French conquest of Cochinchina and Saigon, the Roman Catholic Church established a community and religious services for French colonialists. The cathedral boasts its honored status as a Basilica consecrated tens of years ago. In 1960 the Vatican founded a Roman Catholic diocese in Vietnam and assigned archbishops to Hanoi, Hue, and Saigon. Apart from the religious meaning that attracts tourists, the even more special captivating point of Notre-Dame Cathedral is its special neo-Romanesque style of architecture. During its construction, all its red bricks were imported from Marseilles and the colored glass windows were made in Chartres Province, France.”
Ho Chi Minh Museum – The exterior of beautiful Ho Chi Minh Museum is a mix of traditional Vietnamese and French architecture. It was built in 1863 and originally used as the French Customs House. All visitors entering Saigon had to go through the building when they docked at the port.
Ho Chi Minh lived inside the building before heading to his 30-year exile across America and Europe. The museum was inaugurated in 1990 to celebrate Ho Chi Minh’s 100th birthday. Many of Ho Chi Minh’s personal belongings and journals are preserved and housed in the museum along with artifacts of the revolution.
“The Ho Chi Minh Museum is a huge cultural work built around the aspirations of the Vietnamese to commemorate the once-leader and national hero of Vietnam. The Museum is as diverse as the many names associated with it. The museum is also known as Uncle Ho’s Museum, the Dragon House, Khu Luu Niem Bac Ho, and the Nga Rong Harbor. President Ho Chi Minh was a leader who strived to build a nation of peace, unity, independence and democracy. Indeed, his legacy continues to live on to be passed down to generations to come at the Ho Chi Minh Museum.”