Ho Chi Minh City is repainting its 123-year-old Central Post Office for the first time since the Vietnam War ended and fixing several leaks in its roof.
The building's facade has been painted a golden yellow (its original color) as well as the official color of Vietnam’s postal service.
The building's moldings and reliefs will be painted white and green.
Workers are still painting and fixing the central part of the building and its interior.
Nguyen Thi Thu Van, the office's deputy director, said this represents the first grand renovation of the colonial-era structure since 1975.
Van said the office will maintain normal business hours during the rennovation, which is expected to conclude before the Lunar New Year (Tet) which falls in mid-February.
The work is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Group approved and funds for the project, she said.
“The building has been open for over a hundred years, so its paint and plaster have faded and worn away in several spots,” she said.
Van said the renovation process will “preserve an attraction that draws a lot of tourists.”
The Saigon Central Post Office was designed and constructed between 1886 and 1891 by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel, the namesake creator of the Eiffel Tower.
The neoclassical building is part of the city’s colonial heart, which includes the Notre Dame Cathedral (built between 1877-1880), the former Cercle des Officiers (now the administrative headquarters of District 1) on Le Duan Street and several other French buildings on Dong Khoi and Ly Tu Trong.
International innovators in the fields of communication and electrical engineering are immortalized in decorative frames that hang at the front of the office.
Last year, city officials from Lyon cooperated with the HCMC government to install a lighting system around the office to make it look more prominent at night.
Van said she is aware that the post office is an important building and has approached its restoration with the utmost care.
They set up an advisory council for the project and tested the new paint on small patch of the exterior wall to see how it would hold up under rain and sunshine for several months.
After deciding it had fared well, they coated the whole building in it.
“Many hues of yellow look beautiful at first, but quickly fade in the rain and wind,” Van said.
In addition to painting the building and filling the holes in its roof, the workers have been told to leave the rest untouched.
“The building is not just an asset to the postal industry, but a heritage for the city's residents,” said Van, who has worked at the office for more than 20 years.
“Every time I look at the structure, it seems so beautiful to me. It’s not just me; everyone who works in the building is proud to be here. So we know very well that we should preserve it,” she said.
Workers repaint the Saigon Central Post Office.
The work crew was told to leave every feature untouched and stick to the building's original colors during the makeover of the Saigon Central Post Office.
One of many beautiful moldings on the post office.
The wooden shutters on the Saigon Central Post Office were repainted green.
Portions of the plaster have rotted and fallen off.
The dome roof inside the Saigon Central Post Office.
A foreign tourist exits through the main gate of the Saigon Central Post Office.
Tourists and school children on a field trip to the post office.
A tourist photographs a map inside the office, which has two: one depicting Saigon and its surrounding area in 1892 and another depicting the electrical network in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1936.
One of the interior pillars.
The post office and the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral are prominent French-colonial relics in Ho Chi Minh City.
Photos: Doc Lap