Rex Hotel is owned by the state-owned enterprise Saigon Tourist.
Constructed in 1927, for French businessman Bainier, during France's colonial rule of Vietnam, the building started out as a two-story auto dealership and garage complex, called "Bainier Auto Hall". The building showcased Citroën and other European cars. From 1959 to 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Ung Thi renovated the building into the 100-room "Rex Complex" hotel, which featured three cinemas, a cafeteria, a dance hall and a library.
The first guests in the Rex came in December 1961, while it was still in its final construction phase. They were 400 U.S. Army soldiers, 200 each of the 57th Transportation Company from Fort Lewis, Tacoma, Wa. and of the 8th Transportation Company from Fort Bragg, N.C.
They were the first company-strength units to arrive in Saigon, each unit with twenty H-21 twin rotor "Shawnee" helicopters, on the USS Core, on December 11, 1961. They were billeted at the Rex for a week or so while their tents were being set up, at Tan Son Nhut, Saigon, for the 57th, and in Quy Nhon for the 8th.
A Thanksgiving dinner, a few weeks after the actual holiday, was cooked in the men's field kitchen on the rooftop of the Rex.
The hotel was made famous during the Vietnam War when it was hosting the American military command's daily conference, derisively named Five O'Clock Follies by cynical journalists who'd find the optimism of the American officers to be misguided. Its rooftop bar was a well-known hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents.
Decline and revival of the Rex
After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the state's Saigon Tourism Bureau took ownership of the hotel and renamed it Ben Thanh ("Fortified Port"). The hotel was used as the location for the press conference announcing the reunification of Vietnam in 1976.
In 1986, the hotel was renamed Rex Hotel.
- "In resurgent Ho Chi Minh City the scars are still visible" by Graeme Leech, The Australian, March, 09, 2009.
- Ben Thanh market, Vietscape website