Getting To Know Saigon’s District 1

Because the morning of Day 1 was a ‘bed of roses,’ I decided to push my luck by venturing into the districts of Saigon on my first day. I thought, if my day started without some unlikeable commotion then I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong that day.

HCM map

The landlady of the guesthouse gave me a map of Saigon City’s center and like always, I was pretty useless with it (God knows how many times my best friend had tutored me about directions); either that or the map was wrong. I got lost one too many times and some of the streets were wrong. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but I ended up giving up after an hour of clueless walking. I rammed the map in my bag and told my feet to take me where ever it wanted to take me. When I did this, I started finding the darn places that I initially planned to visit.

The walk gave me a whiff of what this city boasted of – charming buildings that were influenced by French colonial architecture, coffee carts arrayed in wide walking streets where you can enjoy a drink while taking a quick breather, and throngs of boulevards garroted by cars, buses, and a million motorcycles. Honestly, I didn’t know if I should be enthralled (because the mixture of old and new is like a happy popper on a bad day) or be dismayed (because I saw so much of the foreign influence hence the city’s identity seemed to owe it so much).

HCM highlightsSaigon!

There were many places to see. I personally suggest that the Lam Son Square where the Continental Hotel and the Opera House are located should not be missed. Feasting your eyes on the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office in the Paris Commune Square is also a must-do. While we’re at it, it would be best to drop by some museums too. So far, I have only been to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and I learned several things that I know I would never have stumbled on if I were in a different country. This was one side of the sordid war story that is rarely heard.

fave My favorite building in Saigon. I love this place. <3 <3 <3

Like all walks, we always end up with a favorite. One that will truly make us stop and take in everything at once in fear that it might lose its exquisiteness. My favorite was the old yellow building at the back of the Reunification Palace. I don’t know what the name of the building is. I couldn’t read the sign outside and the map didn’t indicate that the building held any significance. It was a beauty. I loved how majestic it looked with it’s blazing yellow hue, some portions peeled off by time and unpredictable weather; even the trees surrounding it seemed to emblazoned the elegance of the old days. Sadly, after taking a few snaps, I was instructed by the guard to stop taking photos and to leave the premises.

DSC_0135

That’s the nicest shot I got of the Reunification Palace and the Chinese lady wouldn’t budge!

If I had a favorite, I also had my least esteemed building – the Reunification Palace. The building had a concrete facade which gave a gloomy feel and I wasn’t that interested to see for myself what I already have an idea about. The building was obviously a clear proof of the opulence of the 60s which bluntly contrasted the underground tunnels of Cu Chi. (I hated the idea of peeking into extravagant rooms, especially one that depicted slab-sided extravagance.) Or maybe my dislike of the place was somehow influenced by my irritation towards the Russian guy who I have been trying to ditch? Anyway, that’s another article to write.

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