At Hanoi Sofitel Legend, a peek at wartime history

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bomb shelter at Sofitel Legend Metropole HanoiThe Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi in May reopened a bomb shelter in its back garden, making it available for viewing by guests and staff as well as by interested locals.

When Hanoi was bombed during the Vietnam War, from the mid-1960s to Christmas of 1972, guests were led to relative safety in the 430-square-foot, underground bomb shelter.

In the years after, the shelter was sealed and essentially lost, until a chance rediscovery last year during the reconstruction of the hotel's Bamboo Bar.

The shelter was reopened as a memorial to the staffers who led guests to safety. It also becomes the anchor in the Metropole's new Path of History hotel tour.

"Hotels are always opening new outlets: new restaurants, new bars, new spas," said Kai Speth, the hotel's general manager. "But it's not every day that a hotel opens an old bomb shelter as a new memorial."

Even without war stories, the 364-room hotel has a history sufficient to warrant tours for guests.

The colonial French property, dating from 1901, is regarded as the grande dame of Vietnamese hotels. After a complete renovation in 2009, the landmark hotel became the first of the Sofitel portfolio to be branded a Legend property.

Sofitel Legend Metropole HanoiIts historical Metropole wing features three suites named for famous former guests: Charlie Chaplin and authors Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham.

According to the hotel's press statement, historian Andreas Augustin has prepared content for an exhibit on the hotel's history, including a section on the bomb shelter. The exhibit lines 60 feet of hotel corridor.

Thirteen exhibition plates include restored images of the hotel's early years, a timeline plus introductions to more than 300 guests, ranging from Chaplin to Jane Fonda and Joan Baez to Angelina Jolie.

Augustin, founder of the Most Famous Hotels in the World organization, is training local historians to lead the Path to History tour, the hotel said. The tour culminates with a visit to the wartime shelter, which has been left largely as it was found when rediscovered last summer.

Visit www.sofitel.com and view a video of Kai Speth touring the bomb shelter when it was first discovered below. 

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