Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 January 2020

Where are Trump and Kim meeting? The storied history of the Metropole Hanoi

History is potentially being made in the hotel today, but it already has many tales to tell

Where are United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meeting in Vietnam today? At one of Hanoi's most legendary hotels, which is now called the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.

Built in 1901, the 364-room hotel sits in the centre of the city's French Quarter, on the south-east side of Hoan Kiem Lake. It remains Hanoi's chicest hotel, and the place to meet for a coffee on the sidewalk at La Terrasse, or for a drink in Bamboo Bar (where beverages are named after the hotel's famous guests).

In its 118-year history, the Metropole has hosted authors, royals, actors and ambassadors, including Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham (all of whom have suites named after them). Architecturally, and with the stories it tells, it epitomises the era during which Hanoi was the Paris of Asia, and a playground for rich colonialists.

Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Parlour at the hotel in 1923; Graham Greene stayed at the hotel in 1951 to report for the Paris Match; and Charlie Chaplin chose the grand building for his 1936 honeymoon after he married Paulette Goddard (his third wife - he divorced her in 1942 and then married Oona O'Neill in 1943).

The hotel is split into two wings - the historic wing is home to 106 rooms and three suites, while the new wing houses 236 rooms and 18 suites. The hotel was originally called the Grand Hotel Metropole, and was renamed Thong Nhat Hotel (Reunification Hotel) in the 1950s following Vietnamese independence. The hotel was managed by Pullman hotels before Sofitel took over management.

The hotel's bomb shelter was built in the 1960s to protect visitors, including Jane Fonda and Joan Baez (the latter during the Christmas bombings), from air raids during the American War (1964 to 1973). The shelter area reopened in 2012 as a memorial site after reconstruction, and guests of the hotel can now visit the historic site on daily tours (at 5pm and 6pm), during which historians talk about this tumultuous chapter in Hanoi's history.

US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 27, 2019. / AFP / SAUL LOEB
US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un before a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi. Photo: AFP

This week, history may be made in the hotel again, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump standing in front of their respective flags on Wednesday, shaking hands, in a summit that they pledged would see them working towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

The pair are scheduled to have a 20 minute one-on-one chat before having dinner, along with their aides.

Updated: February 27, 2019 04:17 PM