The Continental Hotel is located in 123 Catinat (then Freedom, now Dong Khoi) is the oldest hotel in Saigon and in Vietnam. Mark PhillipYablonka, an American war correspondent, had been in Vietnam since the war to the reunification of the country. His favorite hotel is Continental. He gave the place the nickname "Grand Lady of Hotels in Saigon". He added: "If the walls of Hotel Continental could speak, they would tell you a lot of things."
Actually, the "walls" are just a stylized way, but because so many writers and journalists have ever lived in this hotel, so what they witnessed and recounted in their works or writings makes this hotel well-known more than any hotel in Saigon.
The first hotel in the south
When the French invaded Vietnam and opened the gateway to Indochina, they also opened up a new tourim axis in the Far East. Along with the discovery of the Angkor population in Cambodia in 1860 which shocked the rest of the world, the demand for tourism, the discovery of Indochina among the aristocracy, the richness of the French soar was raised. This made Pierre Cazeau, a manufacturer of building materials, intent on building a luxury hotel in Saigon to welcome the rich French customers. They needed a place to stop after a month long journey by sea from the motherland, before continuing on the expedition or exploring the colony.
In the midst of the harbors and cathedrals, through the Catinat line, which was the main artery center of that time, began from the highest hill to the river. Notre Dame Cathedral was beginning to be built, Bishop Isidore Colombert placed the first stone the previous year, the next year the hotel was also kicked off. It took two years to build and complete it in mid-1880, almost at the same time as the Notre Dame Cathedral. The immense vacant land facing the hotel overlooking the river, known as the Esplanade - the promenade between the military citadel and the city, will be the site of the City Theater built in 1911. This makes the hotel significantly increase its value because there are rare places in Saigon at that time there is such a beautiful view.
Luxury and quality like the mother country
The hotel, like all European architecture in the city, is open to the outside. Architecture, interior as well as decoration are standard of a luxury hotel in Paris, creating a familiar feeling for visitors in a foreign country.
However, there are exceptions: the hotel is design with a courtyard in the middle. The inner suites are facing the courtyard. And in the middle of the courtyard, there are many kinds of flowers and tropical plants.
The first floor of the hotel houses a casino, where there are people called "cercle européen" (European club), and Franchini (owner of the hotel from 1930 to 1975) called "cercle privé" (Private club) where the administrators, travelers, planters and bankers met regularly, both for gambling habits and for reliving the memory of their national life.
The restaurant is also the place to introduce the chefs with Western culinary style. The banquet with the abundance of food plates and the generosity of the quantity is the true manifestation of nationalism in cooking. "Delicious like in France" has been the slogan of the restaurant for nearly a hundred years. In the afternoons, this place glowed brightly with elegant ladies dining, chatting, surfing and dancing in the music. The magnificent Catinat Road has had many cafes and pubs, becoming the center of entertainment by night. But only at the bar of the Continental restaurant is the place where Kim Lefevre, a writer who lived in Saigon long time, said: People often talked with the most elegant women in Saigon here.
There have been many famous people who have come to this hotel, from Russian princes to French dancers such as Tagor, Andre Malraux, Somerset Maugham, Catherine Deneuve, model Kate Moss, former French president Chirac ...
There are two very special rooms in the hotel: Room 214, where the British writer Graham Greene during his long stay here conceived the idea and wrote most of the famous Quiet American - the story of the French and American interference in Saigon. And Room 307, where General Pham Xuan An had been staying for quite a long time.
Changing the name many times
The hotel has been renamed several times. In the 1960s, the government of the Republic of Vietnam requested a Vietnamese name, so the hotel was called Dai Luc Lu Quan. After 1975, it was renamed Hai Au Hotel, which did not have anything to do with the original name. After this new regain the old name.
Over nearly 140 years, the architecture of the hotel has not changed significantly, remaining the modest height with only one ground floor, three floors. Although there is little change in the window but the style is the same old white luxury. La Fayette's main restaurant is international-standard, with classic luxury space. Continental Patio Garden Restaurant, where the old porcelain is now 130 years old - can accommodate up to 500 guests, is now the ideal venue for banquets or events, launching products. The "colonial-style" atmosphere has been revitalized in order to entice tourists to seek colonial nostalgia in the 21st century.
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