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Rendezvous at La Residence: Our Lavish Overnight Stay
After travelling down the east coast of Vietnam from the forested borders of Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park – a stunningly beautiful, but lengthy drive down the undeveloped coastline – a trio of weary, bleary eyed (and I have to admit rather grubby) voyagers arrived at the steps of La Residence boutique hotel. Hot and flustered with the late March weather, the friendly, promptly acting staff greeted us in spectacular fashion. Bags were whipped up efficiently by the concierge and we were ushered into the plush lobby lounge for a refreshing iced lemongrass tea whilst confirming our check-in details.
Designed to highlight the period in which this handsome building was originally constructed – La Residence is the former French colonial Governer’s house – art-deco typefaces feature prominently amongst ornate furnishings and decor. Geometric black and white tiled floors, lavish chaise and velour cocktail sofas – reminiscent of those elegant 1930s cinema and ocean-liner interiors – and vintage artwork enhance the crystalline contours of La Residence’s characteristic architecture. Just sitting in the lobby lounge will afford the impression of a colonial epoch; an age of elegance and extravagance.
Before venturing to our rooms, we were invited for a sundowner cocktail at the back of the hotel’s signature restaurant Le Parfum. Overlooking the perfume river (hence the name), iconic Thien Mu pagoda and the hotel’s gorgeous gardens (again, the trimmed geometric hedges and lawn, peppered with exotic tropical flowers, enhance that romantic stylishness of a bygone era), we enjoyed refreshing Mojitos whilst the yolk of the sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon, distributing a lovely pinkish hue over the surrounds.
After relaxing into the pace of Hue after our long day, we each decided to head to our rooms to rejuvenate for a few hours before dinner. Whilst the hallmark of the hotel is its vintage ambiance and decor, the rooms feature all the modern luxuries one would hope for in a boutique, 5-star establishment. Large flat screen TV, high speed wifi, sizable wardrobe space, uber-comfortable bed with feather down pillows and – perhaps the notable feature – a substantial bathroom with a chic 1930s style tub. Before anything else, I had a quick shower and ran a bath. After arranging my clothes for dinner, I entered the warm waters with a glass of wine in hand and a book to enjoy almost an entire hour of calm bliss. It was just what was needed after a day of travel.
At this point of relaying my experience, I have to divulge that I had visited La Residence a number of times before but had never actually stayed the night as a guest. I’ve been a lifestyle writer for many years – contributing to various publications and even managing a title of my own, the Live Hoi An magazine www.livehoian.com – and have lived in Southeast Asia for over 12 years. So I had experienced Hue a number of times, but as fate would have it, had stayed at different hotels during my visits. I was of course familiar with La Residence – it is an icon in its own right – but had only dined at the established Le Parfum restaurant.
This time I had the opportunity to properly experience the hotel and I should also admit that I am a rather scrupulous guest.
I am so fastidious about presentation, service and all the ‘little details’ that make a difference in a venue of hospitality, that friends and family are often reluctant to dine with me in a restaurant, let alone stay in the same hotel as me. Fortunately I can say that the hotel lived up to its reputation – and more.
Whilst we dined in an outside venue for dinner (the decadent new La Carambole restaurant adjacent to the citadel) we came back to the hotel for evening cocktails and a game of pool the lobby area before bed. I had possibly the best sleep I had experienced in a year. It may sound like an exaggeration, but honestly, the bed was that comfortable. When I awoke I went downstairs to be greeted by one of the most sumptuous buffet spreads I have seen in this part of the region. Colourful fruit displays, perfect made- to order eggs, pancakes, hash browns, bacon, the whole wonderful works, including Vietnamese staples Pho (noodle soup) and Chao (rice congee). Not to mention the artistry of the bakers on display – their freshbaked breads and pastries are indeed some of the finest in the country.
However, my extravagant breakfast was soon superseded by a superlative experience at Le Spa with a special four-hands massage. Whilst having my body expertly kneaded by two very talented therapists, my two friends walked down to the decorous dragon boats on the river next to the hotel. They journeyed by boat to the Tu Duc and Ming Mang emperor tombs, the latter being one the most awe-inspiring examples of architectural geomancy of the era.
To complete our experience (after my lengthy massage and my friends’ exploration) we had a swim in the sun-bathed pool before checking-out. Not content to leave the hotel for an outside lunch venue before heading to Hoi An, we settled for a light meal of smoked salmon sandwiches and Vietnamese delicacies (such as banh beo – a specialty of Hue – and fresh spring rolls) accompanied by Mimosas on the outdoor terrace of Le Parfum. The overall synopsis of our La Residence experience? Absolute perfection.
I am looking forward to go back to Vietnam and will definitely go back to La Residence again!!!