Thursday, July 30, 2015

Visiting Hanoi: The Sofitel Metropole

On our trip to Hanoi, besides the food we were most excited about was staying at The Sofitel Metropole Hotel. The Metropole is an extremely glamorous hotel with a really fascinating history, and I think we enjoyed the historical aspects just as much as we enjoyed the luxury of the place.

The hotel was opened in 1901, and every inch of it is gorgeous. I'm still sorry that John had food poisoning, but this was definitely the ideal location to recover in. Just lounging around the hotel is an experience. The four of us spent a lot of time hanging out in our rooms and at the pool playing cards, and even though not everyone was feeling great I think we all really enjoyed the time. The hotel puts so much attention into every detail and it really shows in the overall experience. Every evening for turn down service they leave individually wrapped macarons! John and I saved ours each night to have as a tiny but indulgent start to the mornings.

Besides being a gorgeous hotel, The Metropole has a really intersting history. It has housed the embassies for a number of countries over the years, Graham Green wrote The Quiet American while living in the hotel, and Joan Baez wrote the song Where Are You Now My Son about her experience of the bombings in Hanoi during the Vietnam War and recorded it from her balcony of her room at the hotel.

Once everyone was feeling better we signed up for a tour of the hotel that is led every evening. On the tour we learned a lot about Hanoi during the Vietnam War. During the war small holes were dug in the ground to create individual bomb shelters for people to hide in. A picture of these holes directly in front of the Metropole appeared on the cover of Life magazine. Since then they've been filled in and had trees planted in them. We also went into the bomb shelter that was built for guests and learned that they (usually press writers and politicians) were often herded into the shelter several times a night. Staff would lock the guests in the shelter for their safety, and then they had to use the little man hole shelters! While we were all gathered in the shelter our guide played the song Joan Baez wrote about her experience of the bombings. It was a quite haunting.

Before going on the trip I felt a little strange about the history The United States has with Vietnam, and both of our mothers commented on how the locations we mentioned in terms of vacation were locations they had heard during war reports on the news as children. In retrospect I'm really glad that we took the opportunity to learn a little bit about the history rather than just completely ignoring it.

The Metropole Hotel
Macarons for Turn Down Service!
I've never seen so many orchids all at once
Personal bomb shelters on the sidewalk in front of the hotel
Today trees grow in the spaces
The entrance into the bomb shelter is right beside the pool
Our tour guide, Mr. Duc, inside the bomb shelter
Read About The Rest of Our Trip:
Visiting Cambodia: Angkor Wat
Visiting Cambodia: Siem Reap
Visiting Hanoi: The City
Visiting Hanoi: The Food
Afternoon Tea at The Metropole

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