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Bunkers, Bays, and Baths: Vietnam for the Gentleman and the Rogue

For the mature gentleman looking to put a macho spin on the Vietnam experience, these hotel charms engage both nostalgia and decadence.

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; it’s often said that 80 percent of all decisions about holidays are usually made by women. But hotels 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.

Bunker and Music History in Hanoi

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.

ABOVE: The immortal Joan Baez back in the bunker in 2012.

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?”

ABOVE: Bamboo Bar at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.

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 to 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.

Fishing Cam Ranh Bay

ABOVE: The historic 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.

ABOVE: Saigon Bar at the Anam.

The Anam, but a stone’s throw from Cam Ranh Bay where the US 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.

ABOVE: Fire on the beach with Anam.

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 Sports Bar at sunset await.

Bathroom with a View at The Reverie

ABOVE: Plush chair from which one might watch their companion bathe at the Romance King Suite at the Reverie Saigon.

Either sex 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 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 Southeast Asia, 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.

ABOVE: Romance King’s Suite at the Reverie Saigon.

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.