It isn’t often that one can claim to stay in the same hotel, much less the same floor, that hosted the Emperor of Japan, the Queen of Denmark, the King of Thailand, the Grand Duc of Luxembourg, the King of Cambodia and the Princesses of Morrocco. This is La Residence Huế and guests here walk the same corridors and admire the same Art Deco building, in the footsteps of those monarchs.
The royal connection here is not accidental. Huế, some 100km from Danang through the gorgeous Hai Van Pass, is the last imperial capital of Vietnam. From the hotel’s terraces – tucked away in a leafy grove on the banks of the Perfume River – the mighty and well-preserved walls and ramparts of the vast citadel are visible. Within this is the Imperial City and the Purple Forbidden Palace – a complex of remarkable beauty and resilience damaged during the Tet Offensive and slowly being restored. Here is where Vietnamese emperors of the Nguyễn dynasty lived and governed, welcoming imperial visitors from around the world. And when they passed on, they sequestered their mortal bodies in royal tombs – located beyond the city limits, each in its own bucolic location and with its own grandeur, particularly the ridiculously ornate tomb of Emperor Đồng Khánh.
It is perhaps not as grand as the Nguyễn royal tombs, but La Residence Huế carries on the tradition of welcoming imperial guests to Huế, who come often on state visits. Here, they bask in a building of historical importance. The former residence of the colonial French envoy, then government guest house, it became La Residence Huế Hotel & Spa in 2005. The handsome Art Deco touches of the original building were retained – crescent-shaped terraces and nautical lines – and some new ones built – the two wings which house the bulk of the room are new, expertly built to mimic the original’s lavish atmosphere.
Entrance to the hotel is by a sweeping gravel path. Le Gouverneur Bar greets guests on entry, where an extraordinary mural by Roland Renaud hints to the glory of 1920s luxury ocean liners as they sip on throwback cocktails. From here, guests can slip out to the garden and wander around carefully-landscaped paths: some leading to a very welcoming pool, some to inviting confines of Le Spa (where treatments focus on traditional Vietnamese therapies) and some loop back round to the hotel’s restaurant, Le Parfum. Here, the menu has roots in Huế’s imperial cuisine along with more international fare and refined interpretations of Vietnam’s famed street food – like the Apéritif de Huế starter platter and the Five Spices of Huế dessert course.
The 122 rooms – ranging from the riverview dens to themed suites – are lavish and redolent of a bygone era. The themed suites, located in the main building, are most impressive. Designed around a particular motif – the nest-like D’Ornithologue, a retreat for an Oriental ambassador in ‘Voyage en Chine’ or a journey to Egypt in ‘Monument d’Egypt’ – they are prefaced by walls lined with portraits of the Nguyễn royal family. Most have views of the citadel, underscoring the royal connection that only La Residence Huế can boast of.