Booze, cars, planes and hotels: Century-old French brands in Vietnam

By Vien Thong   September 6, 2016 | 03:45 pm PT
The French might have left Vietnam long ago but some of their brands live on. 

BGI Beer

BGI Beer was founded in Saigon in 1875 by Victor Larue, a former marine. BGI stands for Glacieres Brasseries d'Indochine, which means Indochina Brewery in English. The company was famous for beers like Beer 33, Royale, Hommel and Beer Tiger.

In 1975, when the North and South of Vietnam were reunified, two BGI breweries were nationalized.

Beer 33 remains a popular beverage in Vietnam, but it's been renamed Beer 333 and belongs to Sabeco now, Vietnam’s leading beer producer.


A BGI factory in Saigon.


An advertisement for Beer Tiger produced by BGI.


"One Beer, Five Continents", the famous slogan of Beer 33.

Fontaine Wine

The Fontaine Winery was constructed at 94 Lo Duc in the capital Hanoi in 1898 under the control of Hanoi Alcohol Factory. This was one of the five plants Fontaine built in Indochina at that time.

The Vietnamese government turned the winery into a medical alcohol plant in 1955. Two years ago, Hanoi’s People's Committee decided to pull down the factory to make way for a school.


The Fontaine Winery in its prime.


The factory right before it was demolished.

Citroën Car

French car maker Citroën built its first factory in Indochina at the corner of Le Loi - Nguyen Hue, a corner occupied by the famous Rex Hotel in Saigon.

The company produced the famous La Dalat model in 1969, which sold well in Vietnam from 1970 to 1975. It was estimated that Citroën produced about 1,000 units each year, with the localization rate increasing from 25 to 40 percent. However, the company decided to close the factory in 1975.


The facade of the Citroën car plant.


Four different La Dalat models.


A La Dalat on the street.

Air France Carrier

To serve the travel demands of the French, Air France appeared in Vietnam in June, 1951.

The French carrier also joined hands with the final emperor of the last dynasty Bao Dai to establish another carrier named Air Vietnam. It was not until 1993 that the joint-venture was wiped out due to the foundation of Vietnam Airlines, the current flagship carrier.


Passengers disembark an Air Vietnam plane.

Continental Hotel

Continental Hotel was built by Pierre Cazeau, a home-appliance and construction material manufacturer, in 1880 and quickly became a luxury icon on the tourism map of Indochina.

The hotel was in its prime from 1930 until 1954, when the northern communist party defeated France at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, ending the domination of France in Vietnam.

The hotel has been managed by Saigontourist, a travel service company, since 1985.


A shot of the Continental Hotel in the 1880s.


The Continental Hotel in 1969.

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