Take time out to enjoy..

Take time out to enjoy..
Relax, renew, regain, regrow, reflect

Friday, July 26, 2013

Imagine.. Hanoi.. imagine Sofitel Metropole!

Imagine a city where the exotic chic of old  Asia blends with the dynamic face of new Asia. Where the medieval and modern co-exist. A city with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace, an architectural museum piece evolving in harmony with its history, rather than bulldozing through like many of the region’s capitals. Hanoi is where imagination becomes reality.
A mass of motorbikes swarms through the tangled web of streets that is the Old Quarter, a cauldron of commerce for almost 1000 years and still the best place to check the pulse of this resurgent city.

Hawkers in conical hats ply their wares, locals sip coffee and bia hoi (beer) watching life (and plenty of tourists) pass them by. Witness synchronized Tai chi at dawn on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake while goateed grandfathers tug at their wisps over the next chess move. See the bold and beautiful dine at designer restaurants and cut the latest moves on the dance floor. Hanoi has it all: the ancient history, a colonial legacy and a modern outlook. There is no better place to untangle the paradox that is modern  Vietnam. 

‘Welcome back’.. And I had arrived!  The lobby and the reception receive me with a cleverly lit warm atmosphere. I check into the Charlie Chaplin Suite, lovingly decorated with memorabilia of the great entertainer. 

The stairs in the old wing have character. They creak and moan and groan as if they were telling me the story of their first one hundred years. The next morning, work out in the gym; dip into the pool, Breakfast at Le Beaulieu. Lunch at the Spices Garden or Angelina?. Right here, until 1880, there was a lake. The French spared no efforts to cultivate this area. ‘After a visit to Hanoi one is curious to learn what the French would have done in Singapore or Hong Kong if they possessed them’ wrote Alfred Cunningham in 1901 full of genuine admiration.
Later I take a stroll through the mild Hanoi night. The old Opera House gleams at a distance. It has been exquisitely restored. I walk towards the dyke that protects the city from the regular threat of floods from the Red River. Behind its walls flow the mighty waterways. Once the river proved the only means of transportation between the water worlds, harbour at Haiphong, and Hanoi. Then the Correspondence Flaviole plied its services up and downstream. This was where they arrived, Paul Bert, Paul Doumer, and all the others. Adventurers’, civil servants, explores visitors.  Here early one morning many years ago, Gustave Dumoutier must have stood.  Waiting….

My Favorite Hotel
 Metropole (15 Ngo Quyen Street; 84-4-826-6919; www.sofitel.com), which has become a home away from home for many.  It was built in 1901, and its graceful architecture and elegance reflects the French influence on the city of Hanoi.
The rooms in the old wing are my favorite but there is a new club floor in the Opera wing which is run by the most wonderful manager Mr Kei Speth. The best address in town is, it underwent a $US16 million upgrade in 2007 to become the Hotel Sofitel Legend. The spa offers legendary massages and traditional hammam

With its twirling ceiling fans and 'Champagne bar' billing, Le Club, in the Metropole Hotel, harks back to the leisurely French period, as does its signature drink, the ruby-hued Graham Greene Martini. (Greene stayed at the hotel and doubtless drank at this bar.) Le Club's appeal broadens significantly at tea time (15:00 to 17:30) when it offers its irresistibly decadent chocolate buffet.

                 Hotel ranks as one of the top 100 hotels in world; only entry from Vietnam

After a year of phenomenal accolades in 2010, the Sofitel Legend Metropole scored its most prestigious award yet.

 See you soon Sofitel Metropole.. Can't wait to be back in September! 

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