Ask staff at Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi “who’s been sleeping in my bed?” and you might get some interesting answers. Their stellar line-up of guests includes celebrities, kings, queens and captains of industry in a list that runs from A-Z. In between Albert II of Monaco and Zuckerman of Facebook you can slot in David Beckham, Angelina and Brad, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin ( apparently, the Russian delegation really appreciated the Imperial Suite’s complimentary full bar service!), the Clintons, Andrew Duke of York and Tony Blair.
According to Sofitel, to qualify for Legend brand status, a hotel must combine heritage with location something The Metropole does in spades. Delighting guests since it opened in 1901 and built as a celebration of the Belle Epoch, a brief period of peace and prosperity, creativity, technology and science, the hotel’s corridors are paths of history from its French colonial heritage to hosting celebrated resisters of the ‘American War’ including Joan Baez whose portrait of an unnamed Vietnamese monk hangs in the foyer.
To experience this grand dame’s fusion of Parisian hotel particulaire and Vietnamese Indochine, stay in the hotel’s Heritage Wing where green louvre’d windows open to garden and courtyard views or if budget’s no impediment, there’s the Charlie Chaplin Suite where ‘Brangelina‘ enjoyed butler service or the W Somerset Maugham Suite with a private garden terrace. In our grand luxury room, subtle touches abound. Ivory silk robes hang in the closet, plump white linens float on the mahogany bed, the bathroom’s stocked with Lanvin amenties and cellophane-wrapped petit macarons appear on the pillow each evening. Housekeeping, wardrobed in fetching French maid’s black and white, greet guests with a breezy “bonjour” while Le Beaulieu dining room and the kerbside La Terrasse are clearly inspired by early 20th century Parisian boulevard cafes.
Yen is the hotel’s gracious guide who conducts a 45 minute tour of the hotel’s history. The foyer’s glass cabinet displays an April 1967 Life magazine with a startling cover shot of a line of people standing chest-high in a row of single person bomb shelters excavated along the pavement just outside the hotel. Descending concrete steps near the pool, we enter a series of air raid chambers only recently unearthed under the hotel’s Bamboo Bar. It was from this concrete rabbit warren in 1972, accompanied by the sounds of wailing sirens and rocket fire, that folk singer/activist Joan Baez recorded her formidable protest song “Where are you now my son”.
Imbued with history though it is, the Metropole Hanoi is also bang up-to-the-minute offering all guests free WiFi and complimentary Macs in the business centre. The Opera Wing, built in 1993 and renovated in 2009, offers a fresh, lively decor, modern fittings, bright pale grey marble bathrooms punctuated by a single lacquer red tiled wall. The Prestige Suite comes with iPod dock and coffee pod machine while all 48 Grand Premium rooms offer Hermes amenities and decadent bathrooms – perfect for honeymooners and special occasion celebrations.
And when you feel like dining, drinking and dancing the night away, check out Hanoi’s favourite Italian eatery, the hotel’s Angelina bar (named after you know who) with a DJ on the decks most nights after 9pm.
Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi : www.sofitel.com/Hanoi
Hanoi Highlights from 2onthewing.com
ENJOY a feel good lunch at KOTO, 59 Van Mieu, Dong Da District, a not-for-profit social enterprise where the food is cooked and served by newly empowered disadvantaged youth who are being nurtured and trained to realise their potential. www.koto.com.au
ESCAPE the beat of the streets and enter the tranquil gardens at the Temple of Literature. Built in 1070, these noble buildings qualify as the world’s oldest centre of learning.
EXPLORE the maze of narrow Guild streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter where families continue the tradition of producing traditional items from Lan Ong Street’s herbal medicines and Pho Hang Bac or Silver Street to the clang of hammers on metal along Hang Thlec or Tin Street.
UNCLE HO would have hated it – he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered all over Vietnam – but a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Badinh Square is a must to see his waxen visage lying in state.
LUNCH at Wild Rice, an airy, elegant dining room serving modern interpretations of classic Vietnamese dishes and for dinner, start with a Kir at Club Opera, a delightful fusion restaurant near Hanoi’s famous Opera House . www.wildrice.com.vn
DISCOVER contemporary architecture, modern fashion and homewares designs at Tanmy Design hidden behind a heritage facade of old Hanoi. www.tanmydesign.com while for delicate, elegant ao dais, Vietnam’s national dress, visit fashion designer Do Trinh Hoai Nam‘s boutique at 63 Tran Nhan Tong, Hanoi.
CHECK OUT the view at groovy rooftop bar Cielo 13 on the 14th level of Sun City Tower or go kerbside to people watch at Metropole Hanoi’s La Terrasse.
LISTEN for the sound of music coming from a boom box and dance with the locals in a small square right next to Hotel Metropole……..
For more on Hanoi, visit www.vietnamtourism.com
To create your own ‘Hanoi Highlights’ and discover the best of Vietnam, contact Asia Unbound on www.asiaunbound.com
Tags: Asia Unbound, Cielo 13 Hanoi, Club Opera Hanoi, Hanoi Highlights, Hanoi's Guild Streets, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, honeymooners, Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, KOTO, Tan My Design Hanoi, Temple of Literature, Vietnam Tourism, Wild Rice Hanoi