Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Rex Hotel, Saigon

You might have heard a little something about the Rex Hotel in Saigon during the Vietnam war without knowing it, as it was in this hotel that the American military command, the MACV, would hold the daily press briefings which came to be known as "The Five O'clock Follies" because of the wide gap between the information being released about the war in the briefings and the day to day reality as lived by the reporters and soldiers. The terrace bar on the fifth floor of the Rex was a favorite stop after the meetings for drinks and a view of the sunset, often punctuated by the fireworks of war in the near distance.

The picture below, excepting the old taxis which were almost nonexistent then, is pretty close to what the Rex Hotel looked like when I arrived in Vietnam in 1989 along with a group of American veterans who came here with the permission of the US and Vietnamese governments to build a health clinic in Vung Tau side by side with a group of Vietnamese as an act of reparation and friendship.

And this is what the Rex looks like today, with traffic streaming by, though it was considerably quieter in that part of District 1 than it is where I am staying near Le Lai and Ngyuen Thi Nghia streets. I went over with my brother to have a cocktail in the rooftop bar Sunday evening around 6 pm.

View of the roundabout at Nguyen Hue and Le Loi Streets in front of the Rex

In '89, the Rex and the nearby Caravelle Hotel were about the only western style places to stay here in Saigon. The Rex was full up, so my video project partner and I stayed at the Caravelle and crossed over to the Rex for drinks and dinner of decent French or Chinese food accompanied by classical music played by a live quartet in the corner of the restaurant. I think the filet mignon and fries, steak frites, favored by my travel partner cost the equivalent of $1.50.

The Chinese restaurant at the Rex today

This Sunday, my brother had two margaritas, I had a Campari and soda and the bill came to $28 including tip -- a big increase in pricing since my last trip, but quite a bit cheaper than the equivalent experience at a five star hotel roof bar in San Francisco, and the weather is much more conducive to sitting outside in the evening.

There was a long table of western men of a certain age that could have been a group of American or Australian Vietnam War vets having a reunion and, in general, the dominate type of people having a drink at the Rex rooftop bar were westerners. You can tell that Vietnam is open for business and the capitalists are beginning to come around.

Kisses from Ho Chi Minh.


Elizabeth said...

Fantastic --- I feel, and wish, that I were there!

Abben said...

The Rex hotel of Vietnam is a lovely hotel to visit.The interior of the hotel is superb and unique in it's own style.

Orlando Area Hotels

Anonymous said...

Wonderful to see you both together in Vietnam. You both have the Vietnam experience and we get a glimpse of life there. Jim looks so happy! Happy travels and time together. Love to you both.

Ms. Moon said...

Just so exotic and full of history and beautiful, too. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

great pictures! Keep them coming. At least I can be there.

Gretchen said...

Beautiful photos.
Beautiful observations.
Beautiful writing.

Thanks Nancy - I love & miss you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...