Good Morning Vietnam

 

La Résidence Hotel & Spa on the banks of the Perfume River overlooking the former Imperial Citadel.

 

Caravelle Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is as much a landmark as the flamboyant Opera House next door. The 335 rooms in the old and new towers are similar, but if your clients are the nostalgic type, book the old tower where famous war correspondents, including Peter Arnett, stayed in the 1960s and 1970s. The Superior and Deluxe room guests on the Signature Floor are provided complimentary refreshments in the Executive Lounge. For premium accommodations, The Opera Suites, Nos. 510, 610 and 710, have floor-to-ceiling bay windows overlooking the Opera House, large living rooms and kitchenettes. For high rollers, the Two-Bedroom Suite or the Presidential Suite are the best choices. For VIP enquiries, contact General Manager John Gardner (gm@caravellehotel.vnn.vn; 011-848-323-4999), or Director of Sales and Marketing Sheena Shee (dosm@caravellehotel.vnn.vn; 011-849-0888-2577), who warns that bookings should be made at least two months ahead for the September to April period. Head Concierge Nguyen Ngoc Lan (011-848-323-4999, ext. 27008) arranges raincoats and umbrellas in guests’ favorite colors during the rainy season. A must-do: A nightcap in the trendy rooftop Saigon Saigon Bar.

Meanwhile, rooms at the Mövenpick Hotel Saigon are currently undergoing renovation. The Executive Rooms and Suites, on the sixth and seventh floors, have late checkout and laundry among the complimentary privileges. General Manager Dominik Stamm (dominik.stamm@moevenpick.com; 011-848-3844-9222) recommends the Executive Suite No. 701, with a separate living room, dining room with chef’s pantry, and great city views. Contact him for VIPs, and ask Mr Tran Bao Phuc (011-848-3844-9222), the head concierge, for the best city tours and entertainment options. There is all-day buffet dining in Café Saigon, and the Nishimura is one of the city’s best Japanese restaurants.

La Résidence’s saltwater pool is serviced by an adjacent bar.

 

All Rooms at La Résidence preserve the feel of a colonial villa.

 

La Résidence Hotel & Spa in Hue was the former French governor’s residence, and its original Art Déco style has been preserved. Recent celebrity guests have included Chelsea Clinton and Colin Farrell. Rooms have city, garden, pool or river views. Tip: The most atmospheric rooms are in the original residence; our favorites were the Voyage en Chine, No. 709, and the Monument d’Egypt, No. 708, with four-poster beds, large balconies and river views. In the new wing, which replicates the old residence, the Deluxe Riverview Rooms, Nos. 302-305 and 607-610, have the best sunset views. General Manager Carmen Marienberg (gmo@la-residence-hue.com; 011-845-4383-7475) says two connecting Superior Rooms are a good choice for families. Top Choice: The Resident Suite on the top floor of the old building with an elegant circular living room, king-size four-poster bed and huge terrace. Le Spa’s director, Loiza de Leon (spa@la-residence-hue.com; 011-845-4383-7475, ext. 2), says guests love the Monticelli Mud Wrap by Comfort Zone. Contact Ms “Tam” Tran Thi Minh (afom@la-residence-hue.com), at the front desk, for spa bookings. For clients who appreciate the finer things in life, book Chef Louise Serfontein’s (fandb@la-residence-hue.com) seven-course Le Gouverneur’s Table gourmet dinner in advance.

Life Heritage Resort Hoi An, on the banks of River Thu Bon, is just five minutes from the heart of the 15th-century former capital. The two wings are separated by mature gardens with a large pool at one end. We had one of the 18 Junior Suite River View Rooms, which are the same as the 48 Garden View Rooms but with better views. Rooms have a living area, an upper-level bedroom and a bathroom with a large mosaic-tiled shower or bathtub stall. Assistant Resort Manager Erik Billgren (rm_ha@life-resorts.com; 011-845-1091-4555, ext. 550) says the two 905-square-foot Grand Suites will be ready this summer, each with a separate living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Head Concierge Mr Dang Dung (con_ha@life-resorts.com; 011-845-1039-14555) will arrange seamstress consultations for Grand Suites guests who will be able to choose fabrics, designs and have fittings in the comfort of their suite. We loved Chef Nguyen Van Dung’s (kitchen_ha@life-resorts.com) tamarind fish soup and crispy hue spring rolls, and his create-your-own-filling baguettes in the bar are great for a quick lunch. The spa’s sunken terrazzo tubs have been designed for baths of flowers, coconut milk and Vietnamese herbs. Spa Manager Ms Suvapa Sittidach (spa-training@life-resorts.com) says the signature treatment is the three-hour Journey to the Far East. 

The Sofitel Metropole Hanoi was built in 1901 in the French colonial style.

 

Mövenpick’s other hotel in Vietnam, Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi, is in the heart of the capital. We recommend the Premium Deluxe Rooms (75 square feet larger than the Superior Deluxe) or the Junior Suites. The rooms have trendy gray and apple-green décor, Wi-Fi, desks and chaises longues. The bathrooms would feel small if not for a glass wall (with Venetian blinds) they share with the bedrooms. Tip: Not all have bathtubs, so check with your clients. Contact Knuth Kiefer (knuth.kiefer@moeven pick.com; 011-844-3822-2800), the general manager, who says the Junior Suites with Jacuzzis, and private butlers-on-request, are in high demand, so book well in advance. Families can be catered to with a Premium Deluxe connecting with a Superior Deluxe or a Junior Suite with a Superior Deluxe. Chef Colin Ong’s signature dish is Swiss potato rösti with lamb ragout, but he also has Vietnamese specialties on the menu. Tip: BMW 5 Series’ and a vintage Citroën are available for airport pickups and city tours. Landmarks such as the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison, Hoan Kiem lake and the Pacific Place Mall are just a short walk away, so we suggest discovering the city on foot. After, enjoy a relaxing massage in the Mövenpick’s health club.

Caravelle’s Signature Deluxe Rooms have special privileges such as private check-in.

 

Celebrity is the word at the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi, whose past roster reads like a who’s who: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, George and Barbara Bush and Robert De Niro, to name some. The historical Metropole Wing and new Opera Wing are very different. The 109 Metropole rooms are smaller (from 345 square feet onward) and decorated in French colonial style with ceiling fans and antiques, while the Opera Rooms are larger with contemporary black-and-white décor and spacious bathrooms. The Club Floor’s 73 Club Rooms and six Club Suites, in the new wing, offer express check-in, late checkout, complimentary laundry and free-flow tea, coffee and champagne in the Club Lounge. Ask Mr Cong Thinh (concierge.metropole@sofitelhanoi.vnn.vn; 011-844-3826-6919, ext. 8111), the head concierge, for his “Best Buy” list with tips for the best shops. Romantics will love the Somerset Maugham Suite for its refined Indochina charm, and the Graham Greene Suite, which has a double and a twin bedroom. For lovebirds, book the Charlie Chaplin Suite, where the actor and his wife Paulette Goddard spent their honeymoon. General Manager Mr Kai Speth (gm@sofitelhanoi.vnn.vn; 011-844-3826-6919) says this suite is very popular, so book well out. Heads of state and royalty stay in the 2,150-square-foot Imperial Suite, No. 643, which has a lounge, library, master bedroom with connecting Club Room, magnificent bathroom, spa treatment room, sauna and 24/7 butler service. Ask your clients to book a window table in the Angelina Restaurant for the buffet lunch. It has great views of Hanoi’s busy streets. Nice Touch: The shoeshine boy stationed in the restaurant lobby.

The Saigon Saigon Bar at Caravelle has nightly entertainment and city views.

 

DESTINATION INSIGHT:

John Tue Nguyen, managing director of Trails of Indochina, says there’s no better place in Southeast Asia than Vietnam, a youthful nation as hungry for commercialization as it is rooted in tradition.

“Modern cities are rising in the stoic political capital of Hanoi in the north, and vibrant cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City in the south,” says Nguyen. “But along the small streets, like those in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you will still find silversmiths practicing their century-old trade, far removed from the changes around them.

“The former imperial capital of Hue and the ancient fishing village of Hoi An, give a resonant glimpse of the country’s rich historical past.
Impressive structures, such as those dating to the 18th-century Nguyen Dynasty, are living testament to this.

“Vietnam boasts amazingly varied landscapes, from precipitous mountains to uncharted forests, and from emerald-terraced rice fields to pristine beaches.

“While large resort developments are heavily concentrated along the stretch of South China Beach in Danang, many parts of the country remain untouched, like the castaway islands of the Con Dao archipelago, which are an ideal getaway for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience.

“The same can easily be said for the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay, today one of Vietnam’s ‘must-see’ destinations and easily combined as part of a visit to Hanoi.

“It is the contrasting characteristics of the country, from its historical past to its modern developments, and its diverse landscapes and people that will leave a lasting impression.”