It took me a while, but I eventually found this beautiful building – the home of the Central Office of the Vietnam Post.
The building itself is absolutely gorgeous, and is a major tourist attraction in and of itself. The inside is mostly open, wood and marble, with many different windows for different types of services, personal or business, domestic or international. Uncle Ho’s portrait looks down from the far end of the atrium, and the architecture is classic French Colonial.
The inside is half a market, and half post office. The market aspect is the strangest – it’s like a classier version of Benh Thanh Market (like… way, way classier, but they seemingly sell the exact same shit) in that there seems to be a lot of trinkets and souvenirs for sale here. I picked up some postcards when I visited yesterday – now that I’m FINALLY running out of my beloved Penguin book postcards!
I’ve been here a dozen or more times and it’s been a good experience every time – except for the other foreigners at the air mail desk! Twice some Japanese girls literally shoved me aside, and I’ve had some French tourists take my pile of stamps and sponge dish while I was applying them to postcards. Vietnam uses ‘lick-em’ stamps, which is a strange experience after using ‘sticker’ stamps (or ABL stamps as my mom’s postman calls them – Already Been Licked) for so many years. Of course I remember these from America, but they’re from my childhood – it’s been a long time. There are little bowls with wet sponges on them, so I haven’t had to worry about succumbing to the same dire fate as George’s fiancee (except that was envelopes, wasn’t it? Hmm, pop culture reference fail).
My only complaint with the stamps is that it takes so MANY to send things back to the States! Two-three for each postcard, and three-four for every letter, depending on what value stamps they have in stock on any given day (the other day I took a stack of postcards in and they’d RUN OUT of stamps. Vietnam.). It translates into a solid 20 minutes at the post office every time I go, which so far has been once or twice per month. When I come in with 20 postcards, it’s a time-consuming process. They’re also inordinately large for stamps. I’m always afraid that I’ve gotten the stamps too wet, or not wet enough, and that they’ll fall off on their very, very long journey to the other side of the world. I really have no way of knowing what gets home and what doesn’t. I suppose this is the price of living on the other side of the world and trying to keep up long-distance friendships… a price I’m willing to pay, ultimately!
If you’ve gotten a postcard from me and would like to send me something back you can rest assured that it will be hanging on my wall in no time! Because letters are so much more expensive (well, like .35 cents, but it adds up) I don’t put my return address on the postcards – so I can fit as much tiny, sprawling text as I can! Think of it as your own personal blog post, direct to your front door. And let me know if you want my address! I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure my mail collection is the envy of all my friends. 😉
If you get to Ho Chi Minh City, this is a beautiful, functional stop on your tour! Check it out.