Rex Hotel - Saigon


Located in the heart of district one, the Rex Hotel is a building often associated with wartime Saigon.

For many people the Rex Hotel brings back memories of the so called “Five O'clock Follies;” or of evenings spent in the rooftop bar, where soldiers and journalists alike could sit and relax with a drink.

However the building itself has a longer history, and has its original incarnation way back in 1927.

Bainier Auto Hall - Saigon Vietnam Bainier Auto Hall - Saigon

In 1927 a French business man by the name of Mr. Bainier built a two story automotive showroom and garage on the corner of Boulevard Bonnard and Boulevard Charner.

The showroom was one of a number of Bainier “Auto Halls” throughout Indochina at the time.

There were also Bainier “Auto Halls” in Hue, Ha Noi, Phom Penh and Tourane at the time.

The showrooms were used to house and exhibit the latest Citroen and other automobiles.

In 1959 the building was purchased by a Vietnamese couple named Mr. and Ms. Ung Thi, who were relatives of the last Vietnam king, King Bao Dai.

They started renovating the whole building, between 1959 and 1975 they turned what had been a two story auto showroom into a six story hotel, complete with one-hundred guest rooms, three cinemas, a cafeteria, a dance hall and library, and renamed the building the Rex Trading center.

When war broke out between the Americans and the North Vietnamese, the hotel was leased by the Americans and used as a billet for U.S. military personal and the Joint US Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) personal.

Part of the Job of JUSPAO staff was to provide reporters with “clear, concise summaries of widely scattered action.”

Rex Hotel 1970s - Saigon Vietnam Rex Hotel 1970s - Saigon

As such, nightly briefings were held at 5pm at the Rex hotel that covered the day's events.

Theses briefings though, ended up not satisfying anyone involved.

The military always tended to provide less information rather than more, and often the information they did give was incomplete or inaccurate (as war data often is).

Overtime the briefers also began giving body counts and other such statistics to satisfy reporters' demands for precision.

But because the briefings seldom bore any resemblance to the facts in the field, as reality became temporarily replaced by dazzling displays of numerical progress, the briefings became mockingly known as the “Five O'clock Follies.”

Later in the war the “Five O'clock Follies” were shunted across the street to the building on the corner of Lam Son Square and Dong Khoi, but most people still associate the “Five O'clock Follies” with the Rex Hotel.

The other reason the Rex Hotel is so often associated with the Vietnam War is because of its rooftop bar.

The rooftop bar and restaurant were a favorite watering hole with the G.I.s and war correspondents, and was a place where they could feel at ease without having to watch their backs.

From here they could watch the flashes and explosion on the horizon in relative safety, glad that it was not them being shot at.

The Rex Today - Saigon Vietnam The Rex Today - Saigon

When South Vietnam was liberated in 1975, the Rex Trading Center became the property of the city's tourist bureau.

They in turn upgraded the Rex into an international hotel and renamed it Ben Thanh Hotel.

With a touch of irony given its use by JUSPAO, Ben Thanh Hotel was used as the location for the press conference announcing the reunification of Vietnam in 1976.

Ten years later in 1986 the hotel was sold once again, the new owners changing its name back to the Rex Hotel.

Since then the hotel has expanded to incorporate surrounding buildings on Pasteur Street, and has converted its old cinema to guest rooms to increase the size of the hotel.

Today the Rex Hotel is a 5 Star 289 room hotel complete with two ballrooms, spa, gym, two swimming pools, six restaurants and bars, and numerous fashion shops.

The Rex Hotel has certainly come a long way since its beginning, metamorphosing from auto showroom to 5 star luxury hotel.

141 Nguyen Hue Blvd, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

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