Across Plaza Cong Xa Paris from the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Saigon stands the colonial-period Central Post Office [Bưu điện thành phố Hồ Chí Minh] of 1886-1891.
The classical exterior façade names an array of Western inventors – among them Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, Alessandro Volta and André-Marie Ampère.
It was designed, for all the world like an iron-roofed railway station, by Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) in the same period that he was working on his eponymous Tour d’Eiffel in Paris.
Two evocative reminders of the French colonial era remain within – maps entitled ‘Lignes telegraphiques du Sud Vietnam et Cambodge 1892′ and ‘Saigon et ses environs 1892′ , respectively the telegraph network of South Vietnam and Cambodia and a map of greater Saigon.
An elegant row of seven wooden telephone booths, surmounted by clocks giving international times, lines one wall of the central hall.
This huge and busy Victorian relic offers all the expected post-office services, and some a visitor might not expect, such as pots of glue to deal with Vietnam’s non-adhesive postage stamps: http://www.loupiote.com/photos/3140179341.shtml.
On my brief visit I missed Duong Van Ngo, the old gentleman in the post office who, well into his eighties, pens beautiful calligraphy for people who want to send important letters, such as business deals and proposals of marriage: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/the-man-who-writes-love-letters-a-day-with-saigon-s-last-public-letter-writer-a-470114.html.