22 Apr 2015   |   Lists

Where to Get Bombed in Vietnam

Anniversaries can be a terrible thing to celebrate, especially when the remembrance involves the death and destruction brought about by war. On March 8, it was 50 years since the U.S. Marines first waded ashore in Danang, initiating a ground war that would see 56,000 Americans and four million Vietnamese dead. In acknowledgement of this anniversary, there are plenty of  good reasons to get drunk.

Why not do it in Vietnam?

Once a haven for backpackers and, for a decade or two, the beneficiary of the ubiquitous, ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ headline, it is evening in Indochina at last, and there are many magnificent venues for knocking back a cold one.

Here’s how to crawl across the country from one great hotel bar to another, each with a story all its own.

  • Bamboo Bar. If you get bombed at this bar, never fear — there’s an air raid shelter just below. Joan Baez sought refuge here during the Christmas Bombings in 1972, and recorded a portion of her album, Where Are You Now, My Son, in the subterranean warren at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Excavated in 2012 and opened to hotel guests as a memorial, the shelter opens every day at Happy Hour. Otherwise, the Bamboo Bar is the social hub of one of South Asia’s grand dames, built in 1901 and so completely refurbished in 2011 that the leading magazines hailed the hotel as one of the world’s most stunning debuts.
  • The Bar. Like any iconic cocktail, the ingredients are everything when it comes to the enjoyment of a good drink. The Nam Hai's masterful mix starts with a terrace featuring a glass roof and operable windows, so guests can sop up views of the East Sea rain or shine. Add a significant splash of traditional Vietnamese design -- including decorative elements such as concrete floor tiles, lacquer countertops and marble candleholders -- and you've got the recipe for a watering hole worthy of its place within a resort Travel + Leisure's Design Awards panel voted 'World's Best' in 2008.
  • Le Gouverneur. In the lobby bar of 1930-built La Residence Hotel & Spa, the Arc of Life curves with the rotunda wall, depicting scenes of Vietnamese daily life. Inspired by frescoes on the walls of the Musée des Colonies in Paris and the main post office in Lyon, this one-of-kind ‘Arc of Life’ mural was created by French artist Roland Renaud. If the beauty of the arc alone is not worth the price of admission, indulge a little history: It was through these doors at Tet in 1968 that Viet Cong cadres infiltrated the hotel and made off with the highest ranking South Vietnamese official abducted during the war.