Our first night in Ho Chi Minh City was mildly hallucinogenic, between the fog of jet lag and haze from thousands of scooters, it was difficult to discern the direction we needed to navigate to arrive at our historic destination – The Rex. The famed hotel headquartering the CIA during the “American War” and an epicenter for journalists attending daily news briefings remains a beacon on the streets of old Saigon. Crossing one of those streets would be our initial challenge. Seems easier to step atop the helmets and handlebars, than chance the pocked pavement.
Following the lead of locals, it’s not long before we’re safely in the lobby of the Rex. It is splendidly preserved making it easy to imagine it filled with a mix of fatigues and flowered shirts in ’69 as we hop an elevator to the roof.
The topside scene is hypnotic. Servers glide effortlessly over a teak patchwork with formal flair. The crowd is a mix of local and international; surprisingly casual and unpretentious. Garbed in flip flops and shorts, we saunter to the sounds of a local band playing next to the giant, lighted crown. Seated at the bar, we order appetizers to give the gin and tonics something to absorb. Soaking up the scene, an alcohol assist is moving our clocks forward 12 timezones. With imagery safely stored, white lights twinkle. A freshly minted Saigon skyline claws out of the darkness and there is the calming sense as quiet Americans, we are now connected to the past and present of Indochine.