Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Martini of the Week 10: Saigon, Saigon Bar, The Caravelle Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City

During our visit to Asia a couple of months ago we stopped off in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, as most of the locals still seem to call it. Triple P was staying at another historic hotel there, the Caravelle, but historic for a different reason. Built in 1959 this was the headquarters, during the Vietnam War of the press corps with ABC, NBC and CBS all having their Saigon bureaux there.

Caravelle Hotel in May 1975 shortly after the fall of Saigon

Caravelle Hotel 2011

It was from the Saigon, Saigon bar on the top floor of the Caravelle (then the tallest building in the city) that the press corps watched the North Vietnamese army roll into the city. The hotel is now owned by the Vietnamese Government but if you are imagining some sort of Soviet Intourist look forget it. It is a quite splendid five star hotel that employs some of the prettiest girls Triple P saw in Vietnam and that is saying something!

Caravelle hotel staff wearing the traditional ao dai

The Saigon, Saigon bar is a great place to have a quiet lunch and a Bia Saigon overlooking all the manic traffic below.  In the evening, however, it becomes one of the places to be in HCMC crowded with a mixture of locals, hotel guests and American Vietnam War veterans.

Served by waitresses in fetching off the shoulder red tops it is one of the most characterful bars we have ever visited and must be on any must-visit bars around the world list. It's certainly more attractive than the nearby Rex rooftop bar which has equally strong Vietnam War credentials. They also have a great Cuban band playing from 10.30 on most nights.

Triple P's companion did not join him in HCMC as he was only there one night.  He arrived quite late so took a substantial snack to accompany our Martini.  The Saigon, Saigon Vodka Martini was large and cold (although not quite as cold as Agent Triple P likes).  It was made with standard Smirnoff and had too many olives, however.  Still, one of the better efforts we had in Asia. 

All in all we rate it 6/10

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