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Friday, 24 August 2007

Hotels of Saigon. Memories of Vietnam

I was talking with my wife at breakfast this morning and the question of hotels came up. I remember when I first arrived in South Vietnam in July 1965 there was an acute problem of overcrowding. The Decca Navigator fellow responsible for personnel, Jim Moran, showed me to my hotel. Near the market, I forget it's name. We were two or three to a room, miserable ones at that. On the top floor was a girly bar. With the curfew one couldn't stay out late in the evenings and the only entertaiment was this bar. Full of girls. Having just come from the Bahamas where I'd been working on the out islands, two or three men isolated for months at a time, this hotel was quite a revelation.

After a week or two it began to tire and I looked around for something better. I learnt that another fellow with Decca was being posted upcountry so I moved into his room before he moved out and presented the manager with a fait accompli. This was the Hôtel Catinat, a small French run hotel. I remember asking to be called one evening so I didn't oversleep as I had night duty at Tan Son Nhut. I wasn't woken, and when I woke up the curfew had started so I couldn't make it to the airport. Very irritating. Some time later I noticed all hotels got one to sign a book when one had a wake-up call. Much better. This had no girly bar so was more respectable. I was a little irritated to find a woman in my room the first time I got back. Unfortunately one evening with the sudden imposition of an early curfew due to a threatened coup d'état the bar closed and I could get nothing to eat or drink.

Later I would use the Hôtel Majestic. This was a very respectable hotel. The food was always mediocre but it was a pleasant dining room and whenever I visited Saigon and PB was in town I would send a boy out to buy a dozen roses which he would deliver with an invitation for dinner there.

I only ever used the Hotel Caravel once for lunch. It was too modern for my taste of the orient. The Hôtel Continental of course was superb. The terrace bar one of my centres of the world.

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