Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Rex Hotel

We did not stay at the Rex Hotel, however, it's impossible to come to Saigon and not visit this place, if only because it served as a base for US journalists during the war. This was the place of intrigue and espionage, where the military would come to take respite and perhaps find solace.

The hotel was built by the French originally as a garage for Renault in the 1950's. In the 1990's , it underwent a massive renovation and today, though it might be considered a luxury hotel, it has a bit of gaudiness to it. The façade is quite regal (aptly as the name implies), but as we circled around the building, and looked at some of its walls, it was strange to notice a full length ad for a Beatles-like concert, with an admission of US$35pp.

The Rex is minutes away from the City's People Committee Office, an extraordinary building with its own history, as well as the Opera House, posh Dong Khoi Street where you can shop till you turn blue, and overlooking Ho Chi Minh City Park, a stretch of green with lovely flowers with Uncle Ho's statue at one of the park's ends. It's right in the city center, along with other major hotels, so you are really in District 1 where you want to be.

One of the hotel's claims to fame is its rooftop bar, which we didn't see, but it is heavily advertised within the hotel itself, and of course, I picked up a postcard/brochure, below.

The photo was in bright colors but I decided to modify into sepia tone, as it fit the image of a refuge during war times. This is the place where the memories still remain, of the famous “Five O’clock Follies” where the international correspondents were covering the Vietnam war. What was that? The "Five O’clock Follies” was the name given to Saigon press briefings during the war, and as one blogger said it: "It became famous because of lines like, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

On the bright side of things, Newsweek called this the best rooftop bar in Southeast Asia. (1996). There are several other restaurants and bars in the hotel, notably the Hoa Mai Restaurant which serves Vietnamese and French Cuisine, the Cung Dinh Restaurant that offers 3 different types of regional Vietnamese Cuisine, a shushi bar, and coffee lounge and the Rose Garden, which is geared toward large capacity events.

As we made our way through the entrance, I began to understand the word "kitsch". This seating area is quite lovely, but I am not sure it is enhanced by these enormous ivory tusks, which say nothing about Vietnamese culture. Right next to this was a huge aquarium with some of the most exotic fish I had ever seen. At one time in my life, I had 5 of these in an apartment, so you can imagine that I know something about fish. You can actually stare at them for hours and never tire.

This one looks more like a flower or some sort of painted marigold than a fish. The other one has characteristics of an angel fish, but with more rounded fins, and of course, color!!!

One of the other pieces of publicity I picked up in my ramblings around the hotel was about the Mimosa Club, which is located on the 6th floor. You need membership, but it looks like it has things that dreams are made of. A sauna (not the wet kind, the dry kind with wonderful wood panels), a swimming pool which someone had mentioned was too small, a gym, a jacuzzi which is my favorite and a tennis court. I may be overruled here, but I can't see myself playing tennis in this kind of heat. There is also a beauty salon and massage...the stuff of aahhhhhh's. Preview below.
Now you know as much as about the Rex as I do. If you click on the link above, you'll be taken to their website where you can view accommodations, pricing, etc..However, one can usually get much better pricing going through an agency.

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