About the author
Kai Speth has been general manager of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi since 2008. Originally from Bad Kreuznach, Germany, he has worked around the world in his 30 years as a hotelier, with long-term stints in the United States and Korea. He favors Apple computers, and if you asked him to choose between The Who and Led Zeppelin, he couldn’t.
- Thierry on Most Interesting Things I’ve Learned about Hanoi
- Metropole Hotel, Hanoi: A Sofitel Legend » Old World Wandering: A Travelogue on Inspiring Spaces: The Power of the Graham Greene Suite
- John Wong on Video: Initial Contact with the Metropole’s Storied Bunker
- Baaam Daaam on How a Heritage Hotel is Embracing Tomorrow’s Technology
- Sophie on What Vietnamese Men Do When They Emerge from their Bentleys
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The first in a three-part series on the Return of Joan Baez
On Feb. 7, I opened my email earlier than usual and found a message, deposited less than two hours earlier, from the legendary American folk singer and activist, Joan Baez.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know what Joan Baez means to this hotel, and if you haven’t you’ll remember Joan Baez from the 1960s. She is one of the icons of that time, a singer with an ethereal voice who knew Bob Dylan long before his entrance onto the world stage, who sang her way through that tumultuous decade, speaking her mind in song and speech as her country experienced the growing pains of Civil Rights and a cataclysmic war with Vietnam. She was with Martin Luther King at the March on Washington in 1963. She sang at Woodstock. If Forrest Gump could have met three more people, Joan Baez would have been one of them.
Throughout the war, Joan protested heartily against the violence. In 1972, inevitably, she traveled to Hanoi as a participant in a small peace delegation. She stayed 11 days while the United States applied a heavy hand to its negotiations with Hanoi, and rained bombs nightly all over the city. In the midst of all this, Joan visited the American POWs at Hoa Lo prison. (Incredibly, they asked her to sing “Dixie” while she was with them.) And at night, Joan and our other guests dropped down into the air raid shelter in our garden, seeking shelter from the storm. Read more
Remember Robin Williams, and that fantastic movie he starred in, Good Morning, Vietnam. What a tour de force of improvisational comedy. And what a great headline. I remember, as a much younger man in the early 1990s, that the media put the title of that movie to great effect as Vietnam opened up to international travelers.
Back then, it was apropos. Today, not so much, unless, of course, you’re writing headlines about Dunkin Donuts coming into Vietnam. (In that case, it’s irresistible!) In recent years, we’ve witnessed an incredible maturation of the country’s hospitality scene. Some of the best resorts in the world are perched upon these shores. You can shop here for Louis Vuitton. The country’s flagship airline flies a modern fleet; gone are the days when Tupelovs and Yaks limped between cities. And our hotels, well you can stay in hotels from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi and enjoy as fine a stay experience as you would anywhere else in the world.
Indeed, Conde Nast Traveller in February hailed the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi as one of the top 25 hotels in the world in a new list for 2013, the Gold Standard list.
We’ve come a long way, and I’m always tempted – when I see that Good Morning, Vietnam headline – to note that it’s no longer morning here. But sadly, I can’t quite muster the protest. Because in many ways, it’s still morning when it comes to the evening in Hanoi. Read more
Not long ago, we posted an item about a very inventive cocktail concocted by our bartender, Pham Tien Tiep, who was inspired by Joan Baez and her experiences at our hotel during the war in the early 1970s. You can read the original post here, and you can follow the step by step instructions below. And if you need a primer on how to make it happen, check out our video of our Mr. Tiep at work.
• 50 ml of gin
• 30 ml of Cointreau
• 30 ml of lime juice
• 2 branches of coriander
• first cup of magic tree – 1 espresso cup of Star Anise
• second cup of magic tree – 2 sticks of cinnamon
• third cup of magic tree – 5 pieces of cardamom
• 1 extra cinnamon stick
• 1 chili cut into flower shape for decoration
Method 1 (with magic tree)
• Mix lime juice and coriander in a shaker full of ice (3 seconds is enough)
• Place an inox pot under the magic tree
• Place the gin and Cointreau in a stainless pot and ignite (keep it burning)
• Pour the alcohol on fire in the first cup of the magic tree and do the process again (3 times in total)
• Place a cinnamon stick in a hurricane glass
• Take the infused alcohol in fire and slowly pour it into the hole of the cinnamon stick
• Pour the preparation from the shaker (lime juice and coriander)
• Add decoration Read more
Ever since the war ended in 1975, Martine Habib wanted to follow in the footsteps of her friend Joan Baez. It was not only because of Joan’s famous connection to Hanoi (she was here during the Christmas bombings in 1972) but because she, Martine, is French, and Vietnam still looms large in the French imagination.
Shortly before her trip to Vietnam last month, Martine had lunch with Joan. “Oh my God,” the renowned folk singer said, “I should really go back there.”
They talked about Joan’s time in Hanoi, and then Martine did a bit of digging online and turned up some information about our air raid shelter and the Joan Baez cocktail dreamed up by our bartender, Pham Tien Tiep.
After Joan found out about the Joan Baez cocktail, she gave Martine one of her record albums for Tiep and the hotel. Martine carried the old vinyl memento on her trip through Vietnam where she traveled with her friend Hilary Hart as a tourist through Hue, Hoi An, Halong Bay and Hanoi. Read more