When it opened on Christmas Eve in 1959, the Caravelle Hotel, at ten stories, was the tallest building in the city. At its gala launch, the hotel was praised by the local press for its central air-conditioning system and bulletproof glass. Its designers were considered almost prescient as the hotel became a central headquarters for diplomats and journalists during the Vietnam War. Both Australia and New Zealand maintained embassies here, while the Washington Post, New York Times, Associated Press, and many other news agencies established bureaus in the hotel. Reporters would joke that they could cover the entire war without leaving their seats at the rooftop bar. The glamor faded after the fall of Saigon in 1975, when the hotel was taken over by the government. In 1998, how- ever, it was reopened after extensive renovations.
Today, with its soaring, new marble-lined tower, Caravelle is one of the city’s most luxurious hotels. While old-timers may have trouble recognizing it, the rooftop bar, with its curved balconied corners, still tops the old wing and there are few better places for an evening cocktail.