Originally built as a French garage in the early 20th century, in 1959 the Rex Hotel, was expanded into a 6-floor trading centre. It was leased to the American Cultural Center in 1960, at which time the Abraham Lincoln Library was established on the ground floor. During the Vietnam war the American Information Service made its base at the hotel which soon became the favorite haunt of U.S. officers and the scene of daily press briefings to foreign correspondents, or “five o’clock follies”, as they were called.
In 1973, the building was renamed the Rex Trading Center. It included three cinemas, a cafeteria and dance-hall, famous throughout South East Asia. Designs were drawn to convert the Trading Centre into an illustrious hotel; however the project was unrealized at the conclusion of the war on April 30, 1975.
Since 1975, the development and prosperity of the country has come full circle. The Rex Trading Centre became a property of Saigontourist Ho Chi Minh City and was upgraded into an international hotel, renamed Ben Thanh. The “Rex Hotel” was adopted as its international trademark.
The hotel has been voted in the “Top Ten Hotels” for ten consecutive years by the Vietnam Tourism Association. In 2008, the Rex Hotel was classified as an international 5-star hotel. With its traditional charm, a wide range of international standard services and 286 well-appointed rooms, the luxurious new refurbishments have been thoughtfully designed to preserve the historic integrity of the Rex Hotel while at the same time introducing sophisticated postmodern architecture. The Rex is really “Your Vietnam Home”, a choice venue for international V.I.Ps, as well as visitors and friends.
“Ho Chi Minh is not the Saigon it once was. Everything changes following the developing trend”. However, the memories remain. The Rex is more than a hotel, as quoted by Tim Page* on the occasion of the gathering of over 100 foreign correspondents and veterans at the Rex’s Rooftop in May 2005: “…from the 5 o’clock follies to the freaky reunion of a hundred comrades, four decades down line, the king of residences has surpassed the norm of provision”.
The Rex Hotel was one of the first state-owned five-star hotels built and run by the Vietnamese. The refurbishments blend new international technology with national cultural characteristics.
Vietnam is proud of this landmark hotel, which is known as the pearl of Vietnamese tourism.
*Tim Page was born on May 25, 1944 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent is an award-winning British photographer who made his name during the Vietnam War and is now based in Brisbane, Australia.