Rex Redux

Either the normally deadly traffic is enjoying a mellow holiday respite or it’s beginning to get a little more tolerable with time. Yes, a moped warrior executed (not a bad word for it) a deft left turn inches in front of the taxi from the far right lane steering with one hand and talking on his phone with the other, but nowadays there are even occasional men in little green outfits to help foot traffic across streets. And I could hardly hear the horns from bed at dawn.

The air hangs languid and damp, just the tonic for 22 hours of dry airplane air, but it’s hardly as hot as it might be, scarcely 30, and up around Sa Pa on the Chinese border, snow has fallen. It smells like Vietnam, straight from the arrivals hall. I put it down to cheap coal burned for power.

Walked over to the Rex Hotel. It’s at a far remove from the days of the Five O’clock Follies. It’s state owned nowadays and the rooftop bar is still here, see for yourself, but today shopping arcades of Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Burberry and Givenchy outnumber hard bitten journalists in safari vests. See those three framed photos hung on poles around the bar? They’re framed enlargements of John Kerry’s visit one week ago today.


The Vietnamese Dong continues out of hand, 265,650 for two Saigon brand local beers. On the other hand, where else do you leave 14,000 for a tip?

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