March 2024
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Deja Vu: Vietnam Part 8 (Saigon Central City)

We continue with Part 8 of the 16 part series Deja Vu: Vietnam. The series of videos is made using Google Earth to focus in on various parts of Saigon and surrounding areas of Vietnam. Then overlaid with video footage filmed in 2007 with ‘fade backs’ of videos and photos going back to various time points in prior years. Some all the way back to 1882 Saigon.

Now in Part 8 we’ll continue our visit around the central city area of Saigon visiting Ben Thanh Market (Grande Halle) 1910s, 1920s, 1988 and 2007; French Colonial Railway Office (Bureau du Chemin de Feu) 1910s and 1988; Le Loi Plaza (1969, 1988 and 2007); Givral Cafe (1988 and 2007); Hotel Continential (made famous in novel ‘The Ugly American’) 1910s, 1920s, 1964, 1970, 1973, 1988 (under renovation) and 2007. Then with each of the following parts of the series we’ll be travelling around the central city area of Saigon and Cholon. Then travel to areas outside of Saigon and back to Tan Son Nhut Airport for departure from Vietnam.

Each of us lived in Saigon at different times during the years from the mid-1950’s to 1975. Because of the span of time we lived in Saigon, different parts of the series will mean more to each of us … but, they will all trigger memories and experiences of your time in Saigon.

Enjoy …


A Born To Wander Production

Wow! Now that brings back some memories!

Do you remember shopping at Ben Thanh Market? How many times did you get lost in the maze of vendors and passageways? What things do you recall buying there? What was your most vivid memory of your experiences there?

For those there in 1960, do you recall our shopping trip there to buy supplies and materials to decorate for our ACS dance? About 10 of us stuffed into the Haznam’s limo with the driver thinking we must be out of our minds, making him drive us all over Saigon and Cho Lon to buy things to decorate “The Hut” for our dance.

Do you remember the train station? Did you ever take the train out of Saigon to other places? If so, what do you recall about those trips and where did you go too?

Do you remember the Cigarette sidewalk vendors in front of Givral Cafe on the Le Loi side? We’d stop there to buy cigarettes because we could just have the taxi or cyclo pull over to the curb and wait while we called to the vendor to bring us a pack of cigarettes.

What do you remember most about eating at Givral’s?

How many French movies did you go to at the movie theater a couple doors up Tu Do from Givral’s? Do you recall what movies you saw there? Could you keep up with the English subtitles? Or, how about the few American movies dubbed in French then with English subtitles … lol. Those always puzzled me.

And, oh the memories of Hotel Continental’s open air cafe. How nice it was! Did you visit the cafe often? What are your best memories of it?

Speaking of places to eat in Saigon, how about these places … what do you remember about them?

Arc-en-Ciel, 56 Tan Da (Jaccareo), Cholon. Good Cantonese and French cooking; Mr Ting, mgr. speaks English; excellent catering service; a favorite with Americans. Private dining rooms available.

Aterbea, 84 Blvd Nguyen Hue (Charner). French spoken.

Bodega, 76 Le Thanh Ton (Le Loi). Good French-style cooking; also U.S. style snack-bar for ‘hamburgers’ , breakfast, etc.

Caruso, corner of Ton That Thiep (Ohier) and Vo di Nguy (Guynemer). Air conditioned; Italian specialities: minestrone – 30 piastres, scampi fritti – 50 piastres, filet de sole Florentine – 50 piastres.

Cheong Nam, 66 Hai Ba Trung (Paul Blanchy). Also known as Cheap Charlie’s; good Chinese fare, less expensive then Arc-en-Ciel; conveniently located near Brink BOQ.

Continental Hotel, Tu Do (Catinat). Dining room on sidewalk level; also sidewalk tables for a drink; special dinner parties can be arranged.

Evening in Bombay, 39 Tu Do (Catinat). Highly seasoned authentic dishes, good service.

Guillaume Tell, 34 Trinh Minh The (Jean Eudel). Across Arroyal Chinois; good Alsatian cooking, air conditioned; lunch or dinner, pleasant atmosphere. Chateaubriand – 95 piastres, trout – 130 piastres, filet de bar (bass) – 70 piastres. ( Owner known to drill hole in bottom of bottles of expensive wines, and refill them with plonk.)

L’Amiral, 29 Thai Lap Thanh (Amiral Dupre).

La Paix, 40 Le Loi (Bonard).

Le Relais, 4 Ho Huan Nghiep (Turc). Small, pleasant; 2 blocks from Majestic Hotel off Tu Do (Catinat).

Majestic Hotel, foot of Tu Do. Attractive river view from 5th floor dining room.

Paprika, Yen Do (Champagne). Spanish-style, cool terrace dining room, 5th floor up.

Pointe des Blagueurs, Ben Chuong Duong (Quai Belgique). For a drink overlooking the river.

Thu Duc, 10 km from Saigon on road to Bien Hoa. Known for there roast chicken.

Mayfair, Gia Long. Small; late evening steaks.

How many of these places to you recall? Which were your favorites?

Do you recall any other eating places in Saigon? If so, what are they? What kind of food did they serve?

As always please feel free to leave your Comments below and share the memories and experiences this area of Saigon brings back to you … about your time in Saigon.

Stay tuned for Part 9 in a few days … it only gets better 🙂


If you missed the previous parts of the series, you can view them here:

Deja Vu: Vietnam series Archives

12 comments to Deja Vu: Vietnam Part 8 (Saigon Central City)

  • Ken

    Damn, Bob, how do you remember all of these things???? I must be suffering from more Senior Moments that I want to. I recall some of places you mention. I remember places I enjoyed going to but their names??? Long gone except for “Cheap Charlies.” Used to eat their occasionally with my mom when she was working at the small PX located across the street from the Brinks. There was a little corner place on Tu Do street that had great garlic noodles and hamburgers (sort of). My parents like to go to the Yacht Club (no we didn’t have one) next to the Tour d’Argent which was almost next to the floating restaurant…..and I don’t recall getting sick there (too often). I got more sick from eating soup on the street…
    Everytime I look at this blog, more memories start to flood in…shows I’m not totally mentally deficient yet.
    It’s Friday (TGIF) and on Sunday I’m off to Brussels for business, land of frites, moules and steak tartar…..Be good.
    From the wonderful world of Frankfurt. Ken

  • Ken

    I seem to be some sort of a hog when it comes to posting on this blog…or I am one of the truely retired who has too much time on his hands…not sure of the right answers.

    Anyway, I wanted to ask you, where in the world to you find these old 1920 photos of Saigon? And I have to compliment you on your knowledge of what happened when, then and now. Truely remarkable. I am lovin’ (to quote a poor English McDonalds ad) these videos. I hope at some point they will be consolidated into a continuious video as they are really worth keeping. Thanks again.


  • Admin

    No Ken, I would not say you are a hog about posting on the Blog … I’d say you are a ‘contributor’ and actively particpate in the Blog … it is really too bad MORE are not doing the same … as the more who post and comment … the more fun and enjoyable it is for everyone! Thank you for taking your time to do your part to make the Blog fun, interesting and enjoyable for everyone. Much appreciated by myself and other Blog members, as well. 🙂

    Regarding the finding of old pictures … lol … that is a needle in the hay stack kinda thingy … lol … a few are pretty commonly spread around the internet … but most is a hunt and search operation … it is really hard to find ones between 1930’s to 1958/59, and even early 1960’s. It is interesting that many turn up in the strangest places that are totally unrelated .. lol. Wait until you see the ones I just found going back in time as far as 1824 … very interesting … and informative from a history stand point. Now I’m in the process of working on locating pictures of the past about various places (like the Rex Hotel) along with the history of the place, so we can have a picture/text history of places since they were built, etc. which is proving to be veryyyyyyy interesting.

    Maybe some day all this will be put into one continuous video, but for the moment it is just all kind of a hobby thingy … as the saying goes “a work in progress” … lol hahaha 🙂

    Time will tell were it all ends up at .. lol .. in the mean time I’m glad you are enjoying them … hopefully others are finding them enjoyable also.


  • Randy Seely

    Great series…Deja Vu all over again! (???) Rex Hotel…good memories…along with the Brinks and a couple others. Also carousing around Saigon day and night…I remember cajoling GI’s into buying beer for us (kinda like kids try to get away with that today outside convenience stores…)or finagling a cold one or two at the Continental. Also good memories of “Brodard,” in downtown Saigon (couple little bars around the corner, on side-streets whose names escape me right now). Cercle Sportif…anyone still have their membership cards? I do…and when I figure out how to scan it, I’ll add it to this site. Where HAVE the years gone!!

  • Admin

    Great comments Randy! Thanks!!

    Things must have changed after I left Saigon in early 1961. When I was there they would serve us guys in most any bar in Saigon (most of us were 16 to 18 age range tho) … the shocker came when I returned to USA and had to be 21 to even get in the front door of a bar … lol …

    Brodard’s is still on Tu Do, on the same corner … It’ll be shown in an upcoming video. I remember those little bars on the side street off Tu Du, but don’t recall there name either … I probably didn’t know there name then either .. lol .. I’m thinking one might have been the Playboy Bar, but maybe not … there was a Playboy Bar, but I don’t recall off the top of my head were it was located .. lol

    I don’t have my Cercle Sportif membership card … but I have a copy of the Rules and Regs …

    I have a 1960 Taxi drivers lic. … I’ll be posting a picture of it in the future … with the story of how I got it … lol … coming home from base ball practice one afternoon …

    Yes … the YEARS … lol … in some ways it seems like just yesterday … in others ways, it was such a long time ago. Sure would be fun to have a ‘time machine’ and be able to step back in time to Saigon … lol ….. ahhhh dream on, little dreamer .. dream on … lol ha ha ha 🙂


  • Mimi

    Hello gang! I still can’t figure out who is the author of the “déja vu” serie. It is not Bob, as it wasn’t Bob looking for and finding Suzanne. (“Suzanne takes me down, to her place by the river” must know that song by canadian Leonard Cohen!)

    Givral: In my time(before 61) it was only a pastry and ice cream parlour with a big white counter where we sat on tools. It was also one of the few air conditionned place.

    Continental: there used to be rattan armchairs and small tables outside where everybody was watching everybody go by.

    Floating restaurant: one of their specialty was shrimp paste on a sugar cane. We can find some, here, in montréal.

    But I must say most of the places you mention Bob, where places where my mother would go with friends, but I was too

    other subject: I just spent a lovely week in Cape Cod, Mass. Had not been there for more than 10 years. I had forgotten how beautiful it was driving through NH and VMT. At least 10 sunsets in the white mountains, as in “le petit prince”,(charming little book by St-exupéry).
    I love New England!

    see ken, you are not the only one who writes!

    Hugs to all. Mimi

  • Ken North

    The best French onion soup I’ve ever had was at Le Cave in Saigon in 1971.

    A chap named Dick Leonhardt posted a photo taken in the bar here.

  • Dick Schuenemann

    My best French onion soup experience was at the Mayfair. I always wanted to try the corn soup with crab meat when there, but could never pass on the French onion. Finally, on one visit, I ordered the corn soup, and the French onion, just in case. Neither disappointed.
    This was 1965-1966, with concertina wire and all. But never a bad meal did we partake there.

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    Who remembers the little garage restaurant down the street from the PX/Commissary on Phan Dinh Phung street called the Sing-Sing? It was a popular eatery for the American service personnel that worked in the PX/Commissary. I used to eat there occasionally when my folks would go out in the evening. Dad would give me money and tell me to take my little sister with me for little garlic steaks, French Fries, and cokes. Great and never got sick. Often ate on the street too (Soupe Chinoise) after coming home from a party late….sitting out on the curb waiting for a push-cart restaurant to come by…you could always tell when one was coming by his knick-knick-knick announcement. Great times.

  • picot

    Bonsoir j’aimerais savoir si quelqu’un a connu le restaurant guillaume tel et son propriétaire dans les années 54 à 70. Merci

    [Translation: Good evening I would like to know if someone has known the restaurant guillaume tel and its owner in the years 54 to 70. Thank You.]

    • John Malch

      Kim Le: Surprise Birthday Party: 18 November 1971

      Across the Saigon river from downtown proper was one of old Saigon’s best restaurants which was popular with Americans. It was called Mme Leccia de «Le Guillaume Tell» restaurant.

      It was located at 34 Trinh Minh The, Khanh Hoi district in Viet Cong territory and the fact that it usually was safe is just another one of the mysteries of the Vietnam War.

      Le Guillaume Tell was across from Arroyal Chinois. It featured good Alsatian cooking, air conditioning; lunch or dinner, pleasant atmosphere. Chateaubriand – 95 piastres, trout – 130 piastres, filet de bar (bass) – 70 piastres. ( Owner known to drill hole in bottom of bottles of expensive wines, and refill them with plonk.) The owner may also have gone by the name of Mme. Madeleine Morton.

  • Roger Mills

    Wow, I’m glad I found this, it really brings back memories. I was in Saigon ’58-59, a lowly PFC typing away at MAAG HQ….Found Le Relais early on and became a regular, great food, great owners (M. et Mme. Paul), and a Eurasian girl who hung out there, “Lucky” ….Also became a regular at the Mayfair, which served up pretty good food too, steak frites, “soupe chinoise” and, of all things, crepes suzette!! Oops, I almost forgot to mention the Tu Do Bar, everyone’s hangout.

    I hope you’ll have something about the Hotel de la Piscine at Long Hai, near Cap St.Jacques–it was a great weekend retreat. Owned by an ex-sgt. of the French army, a gruff Marsellais who was said to have Mafia connections….Later the Paul’s from Le Relais bought (?) it, and during the war I think it became for officers only. It was right on the beach, but the sand was usually too hot to walk on, and the South China Sea was like bathing in warm soup….

    Saigon during relative peace-time!!! OMG

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