It’s Your Uncle’s Vietnam

Let’s hear it for the boys. The default lure from any hotel is usually dangling for women, what with spa specials and shopping sprees and romance packages. And the men? Well, there in the corner’s a second fiddle: You go play that.

Hotels know from Adam. They understand that 80 percent of all decisions about holidays are usually made by women. But they also understand that giving an apple or two to Adam may also help win Eve.

In Vietnam, a number of properties from Saigon to Hanoi are currying favor with the less-fair sex with wartime air raid shelters, voyeuristic bathrooms and deep-sea fishing.


In 2011, in the midst of excavating the foundation for a new bar in its inner courtyard, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi struck concrete, which turned out to be pure gold from a guest experience standpoint. That concrete was the roof of a wartime air raid shelter, a warren of seven subterranean rooms that the hotel excavated in the early 1960s as hostilities heated up with the United States. Throughout the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, guests retreated to the shelter when the air raids sounded. One of those guests was folk singer Joan Baez, who was so moved by her experience in the shelter during the Christmas Bombings of 1972 that she recorded a piece of her album there, Where Are You Now My Son. Baez returned to the hotel in 2012, and stayed for 11 nights, the same number of nights she’d stayed at the hotel in 1972. And now that part of her album that was recorded in the shelter plays in the shelter during a Path of History Tour every late afternoon. What do when the tour is done? One option is on top of the shelter, where the renovated Bamboo Bar is a venue for a nice stiff drink, and definitely not a place to get bombed. This, after all, is still the Metropole.

Metropole's bomb shelter

Cam Ranh Bay

Henry David Thoreau once said that landing a fish wasn’t really what a fisherman was after. True enough, that, but it is kind of nice to the land the freakin’ fish, especially if you’re at what has been dubbed one of the world’s most stunning bays. The Anam, but a stone’s throw from Cam Ranh Bay where the U.S. military established the largest base of the war back in the day, organizes fishing excursions amid nearby Nha Trang’s islands and islets, where the waters teem with parrot fish, flounder and goldband goatfish. It’s said the world’s most famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau’s lifetime fascination with the underwater world began when he went diving in the area while serving a stint as a sailor in the colonial French Navy mapping the coast of Khanh Hoa province. Regardless of whether you snare the catch of the day or not for lunch, you’ll no doubt see local fishermen sail past in iconic bowl-shaped basket “coracle” boats, plying the waters as they have done for centuries. After a day on the water, a few ice-cold beers at Anam’s beachfront Beach Club at sunset await.


This one actually cuts both ways, since both men and women can resort to the strategically based porter chair in the Romance King Suite’s bath at The Reverie Saigon. But if women indulge baths more frequently than men (and who doesn’t think this is true?) then that red velvet porter chair with a view of the deep soaking tub and the wooden stand for a glass of something is catering to a male prerogative. Don’t forget. This is a King Suite. Though the suite lies in the Far East, its roots are in Italy. Seventeen different design houses collaborated on the interiors of the hotel, leading the art director of the Milan-based Poltrona Frau Group, Giulio Cappellini, to quip:  “I can’t think of any other property anywhere in the world that has brought together so many of Italy’s leading furnishings design brands… except perhaps a museum”. Indulging all that romance is not for the faint of wallet. A night in the 732-square foot suite costs $1,100. But there are perks, including transfers to and from the airport in a Mercedes S class and unlimited laundry. And, should the king of the King suite feel a little too hot and bothered, note that they do think of everything at The Reverie Saigon, for in the men’s spa facilities only, there is an ice fountain.

The Reverie Saigon - Romance Suite - Bathroom

Jim Sullivan Managing Director
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