A palatial epithet well deserved

(No.2, Vol.3, Mar 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine, Advertorial)

Lounge on 14th floor
Photos: Indochine Palace Hotel

Arriving in Hue after having traversed Cambodia and Southern Laos and then crossing over the Annamite (Truong Son) Range, it seemed appropriate to stay at a hotel called the Indochine Palace. The ‘palace’ bit was particularly attractive, as I had spent the two previous nights in windowless guest house rooms. From the outside, there is little to earn this epithet. It is a seventeen-storey tower block distinguished only by a grey slate-looking French roof with gables. One might imagine the chief merit of this hotel might be its location on the road to the airport next to the Cao Dai temple and a large supermarket in the central business area and only a stone’s throw from the Perfume River and the Citadel.

Lamp at Palace Suite

But make no mistake, once through its portals, the sumptuousness of this place hits you like lightning. Neo-classical columns greet you head on, above are chandeliers and on the high walls of two sides there are murals of aristocrats costumed in the manner of the Imperial Hue court that must have cost a pretty penny. The owner has dedicated her hotel to the memory of Vietnam’s last Queen, Nam Phuong and many of the paintings and friezes adorning the walls throughout the property show scenes that might include her. For instance, in the main dining hall there are pictures of demure young ladies taking tea and practicing traditional musical instruments. It was Tet when I visited and a further Vietnamese flavour was added by the yellow flowers of apricot Tet trees on every floor, as well as kumquat trees bearing fruit.
Equally, there is a French Indochine feel to this place. Inside, you would never guess this building is a mere four years old. All the floors take you back to the eighteenth century, with beautifully waxed commodes and ornate gilded wall mirrors. Even the windows in the rooms do not have curtains, but pull down shutters and slatted wooden doors. French elegance is ‘partout’!
As you might expect of a building this size, there are views to be enjoyed. As you take the panoramic lift to your room, you look down not only on the lobby and pool, but also vast areas of Hue. From the higher levels, there are glimpses of the river. Seated out on the balcony of my room, I had more leisurely vistas of Southern Hue stretching away to verdant paddy fields and a mountain backdrop.
At the back of the hotel, the scenes transport you to a faraway, long-gone palace -that of the sybaritic Villa Adriana of Tivoli, the ancient Romans’ retreat. Behind the Olympic size swimming pool there is a double row of classical colonnades and tall palm trees flank the sides. The gardens are extensive and in use for weddings and special events. Further features straight out of the Tivoli blueprint are a pergola walk and a rotunda under which to sit and chat. There is room here for lawn games; a concept which might take a little selling to the Vietnamese. The aristocratic game of croquet would not be out of place here. At the back of my mind, I have long thought of spreading to the world a game which is a forerunner of cricket and presently only seen in Eastern parts of the English county of Kent. It’s called ‘Bat and Trap’ and can be played in any small grassy area. I discussed the matter with the General Manager Mr Patrick Fernandez, a relaxed and smiling gentleman, but one with an ever-present eye for detail. He said he had considered a putting green.

Living room in Palace Suite

Also among these swards, there is a pet project of the owner or the on-going construction of a model European village. At present, there are twenty houses, a farm and a park with plenty of figurines. I walked along the winding roadway, looking down at the pretty scenes and feeling like Gulliver in Lilliput. This kind of thing, I felt, would appeal to Asian guests such as the Chinese and Japanese.
My visit coincided with Valentine’s Day, and my wife and daughter and I enjoyed the International Buffet laid on for the occasion in the main restaurant, called La Brasserie. The place was packed. I was just about the only European face there. Some of the diners were Taiwanese tourists, but the majority were young local couples. Ironic, I thought, as back where I come from the day passes by hardly celebrated. It did give rise to a jest from our thirteen year old daughter - ‘all these girls here with their boyfriends and I get lumbered with parents!’ ‘A few years time and she won’t be joking,’ I thought to myself. Anyhow, the food could not have been better. Not only smoked salmon, sushi and lumpfish caviar, but roast beef and loads of Asian fare, as well as one Middle Eastern and Mexican dish each. My Hue wife gave it 9.5 out of 10, which, as I explained to G.M. Patrick is, if only the world knew it, equivalent to two Michelin stars. (I dropped the half point, by the way, only because my wife would have liked a few more Vietnamese dishes.) The buffets cost a reasonable VND360,000 inclusive of all taxes and live entertainment by a solo violinist and male singer of modern Vietnamese songs.

I have mentioned the room before. I stayed in a Deluxe King Room. It is the kind of room so luxurious that you could easily sleep contentedly in the bathroom (and wash basin area) which is separated from the bed/living room part by a dark wood oriental screen. I sat down in the evening in a comfortable armchair with feet up on a pouffe and enjoyed watching a good film on the large flat screen T.V. while sipping away on a Huda (Hue-Denmark) beer. It is a mark of attention to detail of this hotel that the beer mat provided is used is custom-made for the hotel with an ancient Hue scene depicted on it.
A mention has to be made of the excellent fitness room, the sauna and steam bath, the wide array of ‘spa’ treatments on offer and a full size pool table. The kids are not neglected either, with a special room for them.
Finally, they have done a good job on training, as the service also meets the five-star mark. All the staff members I met were most attentive. Whilst some work could have been done with some work on final consonants, as difficult for the Vietnamese as tones are for Europeans, I had no problems communicating in English. Also, (and this is only a minor irritation), while it is nice for staff to address you by name, even here reception had not yet got it that “Mr” goes with the surname. Still, it is quaint to be addressed as Mr Philip.
I have stayed in a few top-end places in Hue and two of them are genuinely historic. All of them were great but I have to say, even though this is an advertorial, if you are affluent or have money for a splurge and looking for the last word in palatial luxury this has to be it. The Indochine Palace Hotel Hue has been a carefully well-thought out project and in just a few years has established itself as one of the leading hostelries not only in Hue, but in my humble opinion, probably the whole of Vietnam.

The Indochine Palace Hotel is
marketed under the brand Best Western Premier and is at 105A Hung Vuong Street, Hue.
Tel: (054) 393-6666, Email: sales@bwp-indochinepalace.com
As advertised on Hotel website - Deluxe room at VND2,100,000++ per night. Palace Studio at VND2,919,000++ per night. Palace Suite at VND3,579,000++ per night.

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