Top tourist attractions related to the name “The pearl of the Far East”
The term “the pearl of the Far East” originated during the French colonial period. At that time, Saigon was just a town surrounded by jungle, called Prey Nokor by the Khmer Krom minority living in the Mekong delta. Prey Nokor means “forest city” or “forest land” in Khmer. With the purpose of making Saigon a valuable city, the French re-planned Saigon in a Western-style, transforming the former town into the economic and entertainment capital of Indochina, competing with British colonists’ Singapore
During this time, a series of notable constructions, such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Opera House, Reunification Palace, Saigon Central Post Office, and others were built in the city center. They not only have the elegance of classical architecture coupled with modernity but also are significant historical attractions that draw thousands of visitors each year.
Saigon Opera House – Timeless architecture conceals flawless works of art
Location: 7 Lam Son Square, District 1
Saigon Opera House is a gem of century-old French architecture in Vietnam. Despite its existence of over a century, Saigon Opera House still maintains its harmonic beauty with European style, including Baroque and Gothic styles distinctive of the French.
The Saigon Opera House sparkles in the evening light (Soure: foursquare.com)
One of the most notable artworks outside the Saigon Opera House is the Art Nouveau mural hidden under a dome which is similar to the Four Season series by Alphonse Mucha – one of the most prestigious artists of the Art Nouveau movement. Art Nouveau artists took inspiration from organic shapes and created free-running curve forms. Inspired by Oriental arts, especially Japanese wood print (ukiyo-e). Art Nouveau became a wide decorative language in France and European countries in the late 19th century (Credit: Tản Mạn Kiến Trúc – 散漫建築 – Architecture Excursions)
The Art Nouveau mural is hidden under a dome (Source: Tan Man Kien Truc)
Furthermore, the Saigon Opera House is well-known for other significant performing art, ranging from contemporary dance, ballet to traditional folk music shows such as AO SHOW, TEH DAR, and THE MIST
“Music and art are the guiding lights of the world”
– Pablo Picasso –
This is not only a venue for significant art exhibitions but also a fascinating tourist attraction that has won the hearts of thousands of visitors, the go-to location for Saigon’s youngsters to take selfies.
Reunification Palace – ideal place to discover Asian feng shui architecture
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 – 11:00 & 13:00 – 16:00
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
The Reunification Palace is one of the well-known tourist attractions designed by Ngo Viet Thu – the first Asian architect to become an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. When constructing Reunification Palace, he carefully researched feng shui expertise in order to produce a one-of-a-kind architectural masterpiece with distinct implications for ancient ideologies, Eastern philosophy, and the nation’s individuality.
Panorama of the Reunification Palace from above(Source: thebroadlife.com)
When you enter the palace, on the left side of the main hallway, there is a graphic that describes all the meanings of the hieroglyphs concealed deep in the construction from the outside to the interior.
The building facades are based on traditional letters (source: lehoanvu.wordpress.com)
- MOUTH symbolizes “the floor safe in all four directions” and the value of education and free speech.
- FIDELITY emphasizes that democracy requires fidelity.
- THREE (Tam/San) in accordance with the concept of democracy composing of “Humanity, Intelligence, Strength.”
- MASTER symbolizes national sovereignty.
- PROSPERITY means to wish the country eternal prosperity.
The highlight is the Palace’s three-story facade and the flagpole with vertical windows creating the word “KING”, above which is a flag tower generating the dot in the character “MASTER”. This design conveys the concept that even if Vietnamese political figures have the opportunity to live in Reunification Palace, they are just a temporary “master.” If they want to be a true “king,” they must demonstrate themselves as a decent monarch, a patriotic leader who always treats their residents kindly.
Saigon Central Post Office – historical attraction to keep memories of Vietnam’s last public writer
Opening Hours: Daily 07:00 – 19:00
Location: 2 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1
Tired of the hustle and bustle of modern Saigon? We understand. Visiting the Saigon Central Post Office is a terrific way to entertain and immerse yourself in the realm of antiquity. Saigon Central Post Office is the biggest post office in Saigon, also one of Vietnam’s greatest examples of renaissance architecture which resembles a European train station with elegant interior and antique design.
An overview of Saigon Central Post Office’s exterior (Source: Pinterest)
In addition to the magnificent interior area, there is another unique feature of the building: Mr. Duong Van Ngo, the last handwritten letter writer in Vietnam, who is 90 years old and has worked in the postal profession as well as Saigon Central Post Office for more than 70 years. The only thing that Mr. Ngo has carried with him to work for 27 years is a big black bag which contains English and French dictionaries, pens, and notebooks.
Mr. Duong Van Ngo was photographed while he was still working at the central post office (Source: giadinh365.vn)
He wants to call himself a “public writer” – that means he writes for the public and the pay depends on the public’s generosity. Having done this job for quite a long time, Mr. Ngo has many regular customers: “Some customers consider me their friend. I still remember a Thai customer who returned to Vietnam. Recognizing me at the Post Office, he came and hugged me as if we were close friends who hadn’t met each other for a long time”.
“What is done in love is done well”
-Vincent Van Gogh –
His presence in the Saigon Central Post Office tourist attraction evokes parallels with the building’s ancient aspect but contrasts with contemporary city life and postal technology. Mr.Ngo was a bridge that linked so many individuals all around the world with his handwriting.
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Written by Như Ý
Image sources: Google + Như Ý