The Hotel Contintental, Saigon
Back in 2005 at the end of our first trip to Southeast Asia, we washed up in Saigon, like countless foreigners and expats before us. The 70s were long gone and the war but a distant memory, but we thought, if we can swing it we should stay at the Continental, famous during the American War as a hang-out for journalists and kind of like a Hotel California East.
1) The Continental, present time (more or less). It hasn’t changed all that much, except the hotel no longer sports a sidewalk cafe
We discovered that the establishment was owned by an obscure and undoubtedly corrupt arm of the present government, but best of all, you could procure a room for $70 a night. Not bad, we thought, wondering how run down the place might be.
To our great surprise, the hotel was done up like a fancy whore on Saturday night. The hallways were spotless and tastefully decorated with potted plants, and the fine woodwork varnished to a gleaming shine.
2) The hallway on the floor of our room
And the rooms… only two words to describe ours: retro unique!
3) The room. Two big beds, a lovely set of arches, a dining table, even a full writing desk where I imagined half-crazed reporters scribbled their notes thirty plus years ago
It even had a balcony that overlooked the square, not to mention the millions of mopeds, favored cruising vehicle of local youths.
The interior courtyard was a nice treat, too, and made for a pleasant diversion from the urban noise and pollution of Saigon.
On the whole we didn’t spend that much time in our luxurious, historic surroundings, as Saigon is a fascinating city with far more attractions than you can manage to visit in three or four days.
On a humorous note, I wanted to see if the the front desk staff knew about the site of the former American Embassy, where the last bitter chapter of the war had been written, but they didn’t speak enough English for me to properly ask them.