14 February 2017

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) - Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

Date of Exploration : 29 Jan 2017

Completed in 1880, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is perhaps the oldest major monument of its standing in Ho Chi Minh City. It is conveniently located within the heart of the city in District 1, just opposite the main entrance of the Reunification Palace (the two attractions are separated by a park).

I did a half-day self-guided walking tour of the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, the city's Old Post Office next to it, and ending off at the Reunification Palace.

As the foliage of the park that separated the Reunification Palace and Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon parted, the cathedral's transept made its stately presence felt.
I had wanted to start my day's exploration at Reunification Palace first but it was closed during lunch (11am - 1pm) so I came to the cathedral instead.

While I was at the closed gate of the Reunification Palace, a motorcycle taxi rider came up to me and offered to bring me on a ride to show me where the various attractions are located for US$5.00 (duration of ride is about 30 minutes). I did not take up the offer and pointed towards the park in front of the palace's main gate and indicated that I'm going to the cathedral. He told me that the cathedral is not located in the direction which I pointed and offered to take me there. So I consulted Google Map and it showed that the cathedral is very near.

With the staggering amount of traffic in Ho Chi Mink City, getting a clean shot without any vehicle in it is good training for patience.

I was a little baffled, wondering to believe him or not but I declined his offer anyway and decided to cross the park to find out. As it turned out, the motorcycle taxi rider hadn't been truthful. The cathedral is located exactly in the direction that I pointed and it took me under 3 minutes to cross the road from the gate of the Reunification Palace, cut across the park, and arrive at the side transept of the cathedral!

Personally, I feel that the attractions (Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Old Post Office, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, the French Quarter and Bitexco Tower) are located within a reasonable walking radius. That's if you stay at the centre of District 1 which is near Ben Thanh Market. So it is not necessary to take the motorcycle taxi ride. Moreover, US$5.00 (approx. 115,000d.) is rather expensive to just ride past the various sites. Anyway, there are a lot of taxi scams and other money rip-offs in Ho Chi Minh City so be very careful. Click here for some of the unpleasant encounters I experienced.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is right next to another of the city's historical gem - the Ho Chi Minh City's Old Post Office that was completed in 1891. It is also listed as one of the city's attractions to visit.

My visit coincided with the Chinese New Year period and while I was crossing the road to Saigon Cathedral, I caught sight of this CNY decorations on wheels. Talk about flower power! LOL.

Facade of the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. Officially known as the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. I shall call it "Saigon Cathedral" for short.

Building materials for the cathedral were brought over from France with the marble statue of the Virgin Mary fabricated in Rome. "Notre Dame" means "Our Lady" in French.

Getting that essential "I am here" selfie shot :o)

In 2005, this statue of the Virgin Mary apparently wept tears from her right eye with a tear trail running down her right cheek. Is it a miracle?

The weather quickly turned gloomy with light rain during my visit but thankfully, the full blooming sunflowers planted around the statue added a smile to appreciate the cathedral with.

The two bell towers housing 6 bells each stands at a height of 58m.

Getting upclose with the Saigon Cathedral.

The cathedral was closed during my visit so I didn't get to see the interior.

Reflection of a star attraction from the French era of Ho Chi Minh City.

I stayed about an hour snapping photos of Saigon Cathedral's facade, most of the time spent waiting for traffic or people to clear the scene for cleaner shots of this historic religious monument.

Saigon Cathedral may not be as elaborate or atmospheric as the gargoyles-laden and medieval Notre Dame de Paris, but it offered a glimpse into the early Europeanisation of Vietnam. Incidentally, the "invasion" of France into Vietnam's politics started because a Catholic priest canvassed the French government to provide military support to Emperor Gia Long in reclaiming lost lands from the country's rebelling peasants.

Always be careful when asking for help. Or one may end up losing much more.

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