Unmissable monuments or old-fashioned palaces, Southeast Asia cannot be completely understood without its mythical hotels. Witnesses of a part of the colonial history, its splendor, and its decadence, they were once an essential international crossroads.
We take you today to the Majestic Hotel in Saigon.
The Majestic hotel is one of the most elegant and known hotels from the French colonial time in Saigon. At the corner of the ex-famous Catinat street, today called Đồng Khởi and the street Myre de Villers today Ton Duc Thang Street, the hotel through history has never ceased to be talked about. Indeed, throughout its rich history, The Majestic has seen the handsome world: Head of State, famous artists, war correspondents, etc. but still remained through time synonymous of great comfort and the emblematic refinement of a historic, cultural and a charming Saigon.
65 years before The hotel construction, the land welcomed a small hotel: the Hotel d’Annam, few different business, and a tavern known as « Mere Maillard ». Design in 1925 by a French architect and builds by the Hui Bon Hoa Real Estate company, The Majestic at the beginning was only a five-story building French colonialist design with a rooftop bar. In the 1930s 1940, he hosted one of the first cinema considered the most sumptuous in Saigon.
Used during the Second World War by the Japanese Imperial Army as a barracks, the Majestic was then invested by war correspondents around the 60s. From March 1952 to June 1955 the British author Graham Green came 4 times in Saigon as a war correspondent and stayed at the hotel on several occasion. He wrote there “A quiet American” adapted to the cinema twice in 1958 and in 2002, depicting the Majestic as the place where Thomas Fowler, the hero of his novel went every day for his cocktail around 7.00 pm to enjoy the cool wind of the river Sài Gòn.
At the end of the 1940s and the beginning of 1950s, Catinat Street was once again the rendez-vous of Saigon and the center of all the intrigues and gossip of the city. The hotel was once again sold in 1948 and bought by the Tourism and Exposition of Indochina Company who rented it in 1951, to Mr. Mathieu Franchini who reopen it as a hotel and remodeled the facade.
At the end of this concession in 1965, the Tourism Office refused to renew the contract to Mr. Franchini as diplomatic relations between France and Vietnam were then broken. In 1968, two more floors were built with the intervention of the famous architect Ngo Viet Thu.
Bombed in 1975, the hotel was once again renovated in 1994 in the style of Renaissance architecture by Saigontourist which initiated a $5.5 million refurbishment to restore the hotel. A new 8 store was incorporated into the initial building and the hotel was extended into another block.
In 1997 and 2007, The Majestic was awarded a 4 and 5 stars standard respectively, the first of its kind invested and managed by the Vietnamese.
Today, the Majestic Hotel in Saigon is still downtown, in district 1, less than two kilometers from the church Notre Dame and Ben Thanh Market. While half of the building offers breathtaking views of the Saigon River, the other half now overlooks the pool. The hotel has eight dining, drinking and entertainment establishments offering everything from European and Asian cuisine to cocktail parties. The rooftop bars and restaurants has stunning views of the Saigon River, while a swimming pool in the first-floor courtyard offers a respite from the city’s sun.
What has survived? In the hall, an elegant Art Deco fantasy of marble, glass, and gold in an imposing gilded marble room where vases of erupting white flowers stand on elegant tables facing a central dome of stained glass sparkles in green, red, white and blue. Ornate arched windows, winding staircases, an old elevator (the oldest in Vietnam), tinted glass and brass domes, throwback bathrooms in black and gold marble, polished wood etc…
The rooftop bar with its breathtaking views of the river is still there since his opening in 1925 and remains a popular spot for sunset cocktails.
Gone are the days when on the terrace we could smoke a Cohiba or at ease a Hoyo de Monterrey, enjoying a cognac, or a 7-year-old Havana Club…
Majestic Hotel – 1 Đồng Khởi, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh