Continental Hotel, Saigon - review by Rusty Compass
Ho Chi Minh City | hotels guide

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Continental Hotel, Saigon

| 26 Jun 2017

Map

Map
Continental Hotel, Saigon
132 - 134 Dong Khoi St., Dist 1, Ho Chi Minh City
+(84.8) 38 299 201

Map

Price guide: More than US$110

Our rating
Location
Design
Ambience
People
Facilities
26 Jun 2017

Saigon’s grand historic hotel has seen better days. Great location and stunning exterior make it a good stop for history and Graham Greene buffs.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

Review

The Continental still cuts a graceful and evocative picture in the historic heart of Saigon. If you've read your history, or Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, there'll be a sense of moment as you approach the building's impressive white 1880s exterior. Once inside though, you’ll struggle to maintain the excitement. The Continental has suffered decades of neglect and poor renovations. It’s still a great choice for history buffs, but if you’re looking for atmosphere and heritage inside, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

architecture,colonial,French,Ho Chi Minh City,museums,people,Saigon,streets,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerContinental Hotel, Saigon

Location

Hard to beat this location - right in the centre of town overlooking the historic Opera House.


Architecture, ambience and people

The Continental is the most attractive and evocative building on historic Dong Khoi St. Its facade is also among the most faithful of the many French era buildings nearby. The interiors are a big letdown. From the lobby to the rooms to the central courtyard, the Continental underperforms on the expectations created by its grand exterior. Room decor is especially dull.

The Continental has occupied a special place in Saigon overlooking both the Opera House - the National Assembly building during the Vietnam War - and the Eden Centre where the historic Givral Cafe was located. The Eden was demolished in 2011 breaking some of the heritage value of the space.

The Continental Shelf bar that was famous throughout the 50s and 60s is also gone, but visitors to Saigon can recreate the experience from the tables and chairs that have been added to hotel’s front pavement.

Like other former state owned hotels, the Continental’s staff are a mix of friendly professionalism and state owned complacency. The professionals seem to be prevailing!


Continental Hotel,Dong Khoi St,Saigon,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerThe old site of the Continental Shelf bar. Saigon

History

The Continental was inaugurated in 1880 as the French colonial project in Indochina was hitting its stride. The Notre Dame Cathedral, the Opera House, the Post Office and other major landmarks date from the same period.

The hotel’s international fame was secured when it featured in Graham Greene’s prescient 1950s novel about foreign intervention in the country, The Quiet American. Greene also stayed in the hotel. Long before it occurred, Greene foresaw both a possible deeper US involvement in the country and the likely dangers of such an entanglement.

From the 1950s until the end of the war in 1975, the Continental was a hub of intrigue and gossip as the city’s military, intelligence and journalist communities collided as guests and drinkers at the Continental Shelf bar.

The hotel was recreated but not used in the 2001 Philip Noyce film, The Quiet American, based on Greene’s book.

There's a fair chance some of your fellow-guests at the Continental will be on an historical mission. You may even meet someone of literary or historical significance.


Brief:
Free wifi, breakfast, cable TV. No pool. Garden courtyard.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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