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Saigon AP Bureau Handbook (excerpt) – XIX. ACCOMMODATIONS AND ENTERTAINMENT – 1964

This is an excerpt from the Saigon AP Bureau Handbook( Courtesy Malcolm W. Browne), giving advise to reporters about Saigon Accommodations and Entertainment in 1964.

It has some interesting insights about those times in Saigon. And, ties in with Deja Vu: Vietnam series. To bad you can’t still get a room at the best hotel in Saigon for $17.00 per night! 🙂

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XIX. ACCOMMODATIONS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Hotels in Saigon are comfortable and fairly expensive (about $17 a day for a room at the Caravelle, the best hotel in town). Bookings should be made well in advance, especially during certain holiday seasons (including the Chinese new year).

Despite the official ban on dancing and almost everything else that involves fun, there is some night life in Saigon. There are many private parties. The two most popular nightclubs in Saigon are La Galere (next to the Caravelle), which has an excellent floor show (mostly in French), and La Cigale (mostly for music). Catinat and other downtown streets are lined with gin mills where hostesses wearing chaste, white uniforms serve booze to the GIs and other patrons. Don’t be too obvious trying to pick up a hostess. The police probably are sitting there too, and you may get her in trouble.

Cuisine in Saigon generally is excellent. The best French cooking is available (Paprika, Aterbea, L’amiral, Guillaume Tell), as well as Vietnamese, Chinese and Algerian.

There are no longer any sidewalk cafes in Saigon because of a resurgence of grenades (although some restaurants are at street level with grenade guards).

Don’t try to buy anything or get much done between noon and 3 p.m. The whole country closes down for Siesta during those hours.

All bars and restaurants close at 2 a.m.

Private clubs in Saigon include Le Cercle Sportif (for swimming and tennis), Le Cercle Hippique (for riding) and Le Club Nautique (for boating; but don’t take boats too far up the river. Several members have been shot and killed by the Viet Cong doing this). There is also a golf club.

There is a foreign correspondents’ association in Saigon (headquarters currently at the AP office) but no press club. Transient correspondents often gather at Jerome’s Bar on the 8th floor of the Caravelle.

You should assume in any bar or public place that your conversation is being overheard by an agent of some kind, most often a government agent (Bureau of Studies, Surete, etc.) Correspondents who have talked too candidly about their private views in such places have sometimes had cause to regret it. Exhaustively complete dossiers are kept by the government on every correspondent visiting the country.

Outside Saigon, it is generally simplest to arrange accommodations at a MAAG detachment, if there is one in the vicinity. You may have to pay (in dollars) for billeting, and you always pay for food and other things.

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What memories do you have of these Restaurants, night clubs, and social clubs?

Do you recall having to watch what you said in public places? … I do!

As always you are welcome to Comment below.

Bob

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