Metropole Hotel, interior courtyard.
I’m a huge fan of colonial ambiance. I speak of an esthetic and not the politics of colonialism. I love the way buildings look that were built by Europeans in their colonies, mostly in tropical Asia. Think Indochine. I’ve spent a great deal of my travel life pursuing the feeling I get in these places. India, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Laos, Hong Kong & Macau come to mind, and Morocco.
My only experience staying in a grand colonial-era hotel was when I arrived in Delhi on my first trip to India. It was the Maidens Hotel, north of Old Delhi and Mr. Oberoi’s first hotel. It was relatively small and the service was delightfully personal. It was everything I’d hoped for and when I returned for an unplanned second week’s stay, I was given an enormous suite, much to my amazement. It gave me a glimpse of how the other half lives, if they’re lucky.
Metropole Hotel, cafe society.
The Metropole opened in 1901 and writers with Asian associations, Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene, stayed there while writing iconic stories. Jane Fonda and Joan Baez also stayed while protesting the Vietnam War. I guess protest need not be uncomfortable.
Hanoi was a place I’d wanted to visit for a long time, for it’s vestiges of colonial architecture and the Hotel Metropole in particular. I can’t afford to stay in this beautiful place but I was allowed to wander unhindered through it taking pictures. When my ship comes in I plan to stay there. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy looking at it like others I've seen, among them the Strand in Rangoon, the Eastern & Oriental in Penang, Raffles in Singapore, and the Peninsula in Hong Kong, maybe have tea or lunch and feel very lucky to be there.
Metropole Hotel, carriage entrance.