Friday, July 07, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City: Notre Dame Cathedral and the Book Cafe Street

When people in my and the past generation think about Vietnam, people right think about the Vietnam War and the American occupation. But before this, the Vietnamese also fought for their independence from the French during the French Indochina War.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam
Vietnamese girls in ao dai traditional dress

Vietnamese girls in blue and white ao dai traditional dress waving the Vietnamese and South Korean flags just outside the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Vietnam was a colonial possession of France and like many of the European imperialists, they brought along with them their culture, their standards and values, a way of (political) governance, their arts and architecture, their education system, as well as their religion.

The Note Dame Cathedral in District 1 of then Saigon is one of the remaining important French colonial architectures and is a great testimony as well to the diversity of religion in Vietnam today. The current statistics point to about 8-9% Roman Catholics in the country. Not bad at all for the Catholics in a very religion fragmented society.

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam

Naturally, I was curious to visit this building. Roman Catholic churches, because of their generous budgets, from donations I suppose, are famous around the world for its beautiful interiors. Most of which that I have seen, especially in Italy are stunning. Amazing works of arts, from frescoes, stained glass windows, sculptures in different sizes and more. However, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon is quite basic in my opinion. Well, the church is not in Europe so I would give that as a consolation.

My parents, who are from a Protestant denomination didn’t want to step inside the church but they were game enough to accompany my sister who is Catholic and I (I have no religion myself and do not believe in anything). They did peek inside the church.

Outside, we witnessed a pictorial of girls dressed in blue ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress) and white pants. They were waving Vietnamese and South Korean flags. It must have been a friendship day pictorial for both countries.

Dutched Pinay in Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam

Right in front of the cathedral is a small park with the statue of the lady. 

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam

Another girl in traditional ao dai dress with a friend having their own photo shoot. Here they are taking a selfie.

Inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam
Interior Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam

Can you see my mum taking a peek?

Entrance Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam

My parents admiring the church from the outside. They are not Roman Catholics so they were not really that interested to go inside the church.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam
Side Brick Wall Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam

The side brick wall of the church has a lot of fans =)

The location of the Notre Dame Basilica:



Nguyen Van Binh pedestrian street is the small alley to the right of the Notre-Dame Cathedral just beside the Ho Cho Minh Central Post Office.

Pictorial Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam

Some local scenes we witnessed during our visit.

After visiting the cathedral we checked out the pedestrianised street Nguyen Van Binh across just beside the Saigon Central Post Office. I call this the Book Street because here you will find a number of bookstores and cafés, as well as a street art gallery. Pop-up style bookshops and laid back outdoor cafes line the pedestrian street, and in the middle of the street is a painting exhibition. Benches are scattered around for ease of hanging out and I guess for reading.

This area is a great place to have coffee and while away time. The cafes are quite cosy and comfortable and very conducive to meeting people. The bookstores here are however only selling books in the Vietnamese language so it’s not really a place to buy English/foreign language books.

Book Cafe Street - Nguyan Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Book Cafe pedestrian street - Nguyen Van Binh.

Like mum, like daughter
Book Cafe Street - Nguyan Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Of course, you will find street food everywhere in Saigon. We spotted this trike with dried squid at the Book Cafe Street. The dried squid is grilled on open fire. Delicious.

Street art gallery Book Cafe Street - Nguyan Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Book Cafe Street - Nguyan Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I am really liking this pedestrian street!

Book Cafe - Nguyan Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Yup, there is indeed a Book Cafe here!

Street food Book Cafe Street - Nguyan Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 This street food vendor is such a beautiful sight. He manages the thing well on his head. My mum, being the curious eater (for all things sugary) had to try this. So we bought a few and they were quite good actually.

Hard donuts Book Cafe Street - Nguyan Van Binh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Vietnamese style - Hard doughnuts slathered with lots of melted brown sugar and sesame seeds. Some of these have fillings which seemed to be made of mongo bean. It is very sweet but a little bite is great with coffee. 

Travel Period: November 2016
Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast), Vietnam

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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