20 Sep2013

Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

by Marketman

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This colonial era hotel from the early 1900’s was once on par with such properties as The Raffles in Singapore, The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, The Manila Hotel, The Eastern & Oriental in Penang, Malaysia and The Strand, in Yangon (Rangoon), Burma and decades later, The Peninsula, Hong Kong. Mrs. MM and I have been fortunate enough over the past twenty years to have stayed at The Raffles, The Mandarin Oriental, The Peninsula, The Manila Hotel and I’ve visited the Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya, Indonesia… so our choosing the Metropole Hotel was partially driven by a desire to have stayed or at least visited all of these storied colonial properties in Asia. The last one on the list would have to be The Strand in Myanmar or Burma for a future trip, perhaps.

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The Metropole Hanoi has been restored and updated by the Sofitel group, and the hotel itself is quite stunning. Interior public spaces are sufficiently gussied up, there are large and small flower arrangements all over the place, and in the original lobby, pots filled with dozens of blooming phalaenopsis orchids. It is smaller in scale than other grand hotels, but you can almost feel the bygone era of guests arriving on horse-drawn carriages and their leather trunks unloaded and whisked up to their suites by some back stairwell, to be unpacked by well-trained butlers or valets. :) There is a small courtyard with restaurant and a pool and bar. A new wing houses modern takes (and more spacious rooms) on the original suites. We stayed on the club floor of the new wing.

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The floral arrangements were very generous and reflect the abundant blooms from nearby farms or mountainside plantations. Staff were frequently refreshing the arrangements, and while overall they were impressive, I found several of them to be incredibly out of proportion for either their vases or their location. It’s a strange thing to notice, but it stood out like a sore thumb.

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The entrance to our rather spacious room, with extra bed set up for the Teen.

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Large bed, great linens and a very quiet, airy, comforting suite. This was pricey but nowhere near as extravagant as other hotels of this calibre… we got a deal where you stay 2 nights and get the third free, and overall it was quiet reasonable.

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Our room had fresh fruit, and a nightly treat of freshly baked macarons, a very nice touch.

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A very spacious bathroom, albeit glass fronted and quiet open. I am not a fan of these type of bathrooms, but it was beautifully appointed, with a very nice strong rain shower behind one of the frosted glass doors.

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Nice amenities, including lots of Hermes shampoo, bath gels, soaps, etc.

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The “lounge” on our floor, almost always completely deserted. A very pleasant place to have a quiet breakfast or hang out for a cup of tea in the late afternoon.

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A photo of the street side cafe that has been around on and off (depending on government regulations over the decades) for over a hundred years. The perfect place to have a coffee or tea and watch Hanoi walk, bike or motorbike by…

Overall, we had a very nice stay, and thought it a 4/5 on the trip advisor scale (I sent in a review). While the property itself was beautiful and immaculately restored, there were several things about it that just didn’t seem full on. The use of lots of stickers cum wall paper of black and white images of old Hanoi on elevator doors, in lobbies, etc. just felt a bit odd. The service was okay but not terrific. We were supposed to have a personal butler and not once did we see him or her. Car arrangements were forgotten, or the porters not advised, tea didn’t show up when ordered and our airconditioner leaked a glass full of water near our luggage. I would still recommend the hotel if it’s your type of thing, but just be prepared for less than stellar service, and then perhaps you won’t notice the minor glitches here and there. They aren’t the number one hotel ratings wise in Hanoi, and I can see why that’s the case… But we did have drinks at the “number one” rated hotel and I can tell you at least its public spaces were very modest and small and it was located in the heart of the old quarter (kinda like being in the midst of quiapo)… it was half the price of the Metropole, but I was still pleased to be at the Metropole. :)

P.S., if you go, you must do the bomb shelter tour of the hotel’s recently rediscovered bomb shelter in the basement. It’s part history lesson and part bleak reality of war times and it’s quite fascinating.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. ami says:

    Not a fan of the open bathroom either. Must have been awkward with a teen daughter in tow. Looking at the pictures of the flower arrangements, I do understand your observation on mismatched proportions.

    I haven’t stayed at the Manila Hotel ever. I wonder how they fare nowadays.

    Sep 20, 2013 | 9:03 am

     
  2. marixie says:

    You were incredibly generous Mr MM for rating them a 4/5 despite their pathetic service!!! I was wondering if there were other “foreigners” checked in there at the time you were there and if they received the same lousy service. I also wonder how Sofitel could not have trained their staff on proper customer service: did the staff speak or understand English? Would they have been more gracious, courteous or accommodating if you spoke French or if you were Caucasian? I am incredibly sensitive to these kind of issues, and if I was paying top price and treated poorly in a hotel that purports to be “hoity toyt” I would immediately cut off my financial support to them by skedaddling out of there the very next day my butler did not show up, tea was not served, or aircond was leaking….

    Sep 20, 2013 | 10:31 am

     
  3. Marketman says:

    Marixie, I have thought about this several times before posting. I am usually quite particular when it comes to service, and I think the staff were very courteous and tried to please. But I may get into trouble for saying this, but perhaps the mixture of communist/socialist backgrounds AND the French overlay means a DIFFERENT kind of service? We experienced the same feeling at a rather good hotel we stayed in in Siem Reap as well. The staff at both properties were trained, but young and a bit green. The duty Manager at the Metropole who tried to make amends after the leaking incident made this bizarre statement “It’s hard when we are at the top, as you can fall so quickly…” not something I would say to a guest. And the lady housekeeper said to us, holding her tummy “I am pregnant, that’s why I am short of breath”… yipes! :) But really it just wasn’t say Raffles/Mandarin/Peninsula HK (not Manila) service if you know what I am driving at. The tea not served, leaking aircon, and missed car issues all happened in our last 8 hours in the hotel, so the timing was an issue in our not making more of a stink about it. They wiped a merienda buffet charge off the bill as a way of trying to make up things… And Mrs. MM speaks pretty fluent Parisian-accented French, so that couldn’t have been the issue… :)

    Sep 20, 2013 | 10:59 am

     
  4. Tommy says:

    One of my favorite hotels in the world. I didn’t have any problems when I stayed there, but I did notice that the service at hotels in Vietnam was somewhat “sub par” in general; it doesn’t seem like they’ve quite figured out international-level modern service quite yet.

    When we visited, rather than orchids they had every flower stand filled with dozens of dark red, freshly cut roses, and a gigantic (but entirely fake) Christmas tree in the center courtyard.

    A cigar and scotch in the courtyard bar was quite memorable. I hope you got to that terrific restaurant nearby that mimics a night market in a walled garden… our entire dinner there was something like $20.

    Sep 20, 2013 | 2:07 pm

     
  5. pixienixie says:

    When you mentioned the off proportion of flowers to vases, I looked at the picture above it. The flower arrangement in the smaller vase seems out of place. :D

    Sep 20, 2013 | 4:05 pm

     
  6. jakespeed says:

    My guess is that the ‘sub-par’ level of service is cultural in nature. Maybe because of the repercussions of the war, or the snobbish nature of the French?

    Talking about these heritage hotels, I read last year that the Manila Post Office was planned to be taken over by the Fullerton group to be converted into a hotel similar to what was done to the Fullerton Hotel in SIngapore. I thought it was a great idea of preserving the structure and at the same time providing jobs and money ( in the form of taxes) to the city. Anyone know any updates on this?

    Sep 21, 2013 | 9:57 am

     
  7. Susie says:

    We spent New Year’s Eve at the Metropole..a magnificent dinner and a fabulous time in the courtyard with the countdown. I rather like the charm of the old bit of the hotel. I find the northern Vietnamese a tad aggresive but that may be down to their history. Charm is not a trait they tend to possess and that translates into their service industries.

    Sep 25, 2013 | 9:44 pm

     
  8. steve says:

    Metropole is one of Bourdain’s favorite places to stay in Hanoi. Maybe he’s treated better being a celebrity and all but I think his standards is just a tad below yours MM.

    Sep 27, 2013 | 6:44 am

     

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