Shades of ‘Indochine’

Hoi An Vietnam - mijastrzebski/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Hoi An Vietnam - mijastrzebski/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

La Residence Hotel & Spa
La Residence Hotel & Spa was built in 1930 as part of the colonial governor’s residence overlooking Hue’s Perfume River.

 

It’s like a scene from Indochine, the classic 1992 French movie starring Catherine Deneuve. Guests dressed in crisp linen trousers and cool cotton shirts are sitting at the Le Gouverneur Bar and ordering French 75s, a sparkling cocktail of gin, champagne, lemon juice and sugar.

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With its Chinese-red velvet curtains, brass lamps, comfy armchairs, and an exquisite Oriental fresco above the bar, the fan-shaped lounge pays homage to the golden age of 1930s’ Art Deco. If Deneuve herself were to walk into the room, I doubt anyone would bat an eyelid.

It’s a rare hotel that can transport guests back to a bygone era but La Residence Hotel & Spa in the historic city of Hue in central Vietnam pulls it off in spectacular style.

Built in 1930 as part of the former colonial governor’s residence overlooking Hue’s Perfume River, this architectural gem was restored and re-opened in 2005 as a deluxe hotel, and is now a jewel in the crown of Accor Hotels’ stylish MGallery portfolio.

The Art Deco design aesthetic runs throughout the hotel from the central reception rotunda, flanked by two wings, to Le Gouverneur Bar, Le Parfum dining room, formal gardens, swimming pool, and 122 guest rooms and suites.

Our pick of accommodations here are the six themed Colonial Suites and the magnificent circular Resident Suite, located in the central rotunda and offering sweeping views of the river, the hotel garden and the pool. Note: The hotel plans to launch private butler service in all seven signature suites this year.

Each guest and public room is a faithful interpretation of the original colonial mansion, a testament to Paris-based interior designer Brigitte Dumont de Chassart who scoured Art Deco archives for inspirational touches to the hotel’s high ceilings, terrazzo floors, hand rails, balconies, light fittings and furnishings. For more details, contact Director of Sales Dang Xuan Phuoc ([email protected]; +011-84-05-43-83-74-75).

Gourmet dining is serious business at La Residence and the main restaurant, Le Parfum, delivers a first class French-Viet namese fusion dining experience. Specialty dishes include a salad of banana blossom, giant prawns with oyster cream, smoked duck breast, and a unique yoghurt and foie gras ice cream.

Tip: The best seats are on the terrace of Le Parfum overlooking the hotel’s herb garden and the Perfume River. Two other dining options include a Colonial Dinner by the pool and a Sunset Dinner Cruise on the river. Cooking classes are also available. Contact the Reservations Department ([email protected]; +011-84-05-43-83-74-75) for more information.

One of the hotel’s outstanding features is Le Spa, a 4,000- square-foot facility with seven treatment rooms and a small army of highly trained therapists. The signature treatment is the Vietnamese Imperial Cupping Therapy but we recommend the green tea and sea salt body scrub combined with a 30-minute Swedish massage. Reach out to Spa Manager Le Thi Phuong Thao ([email protected]; +011-84-05-43-83-74-75) for special requests.

Hue’s rich imperial history is the major drawcard for most visitors, extending from the massive Citadel of Hue on the banks of the river to the fascinating Nguyen Tombs and more than 300 pagodas scattered throughout the city.

The centerpiece is the Imperial City, a vast and extraordinary complex of palaces, pavilions, temples, gardens and fortifications which formed the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 until the abdication of Vietnam’s last emperor in 1945.

While many of the original royal residences were destroyed by fire in 1947, the Citadel is being constantly restored and some of the most impressive buildings like the Hall of Supreme Harmony are back to their former glory.

Other must-sees include the Nguyen Tombs, laid out in seven distinct mausoleums south of the river, which functioned both as summer residences and final resting places of the Nguyen Dynasty kings.

The most impressive is the tomb of Emperor Minh Mang, who reigned from 1820 to 1841. It’s a network of temples, palaces, courtyards, gardens and ponds surrounding the king’s burial site. If the backdrop looks familiar, scenes from Indochine were filmed here.

A Junior Suite
A Junior Suite in the new wing is spacious both indoors and out.

Hue’s unique collection of Buddhist pagodas offers another seam of spirituality—the best examples being Thien Mu, Tu Dam and Tu Hieu—while the exquisite palace of An Dinh, a former royal residence which is soon to open to the public after renovation, provides a rare glimpse into Hue’s more recent imperial past.

Tip: Apart from Le Parfum at La Residence Hotel & Spa, there are no international restaurants in Hue but Luxury Travel Advisor enjoyed a very pleasant lunch at Y Thao Garden near the Citadel, reached via traditional Vietnamese cyclos stationed in front of the hotel. Contact Front Office Manager Tran Thi Minh Tam ([email protected]; +011-84-05-43-83-74-75) for details on tours and restaurants.

Korean Air offers daily nonstop flights to Seoul from major U.S. gateways and four nonstop flights a week from Seoul to Danang in Vietnam (Hue is about 50 miles by road north of Danang). We recommend the excellent Prestige Class (business) service on the most spacious A380 aircraft (New York and L.A.) featuring fully flat sleeper seats, super efficient cabin crew, and two private bar lounges. Details can be found on www.koreanair.com.

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