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DECEMBER 4, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 22

  TRAVEL WATCH
Lakes, Lattes and Learning to Love Hanoi
The place, believe it or not: Hanoi, the no-longer-stodgy capital of Vietnam.

Hot Spot
What's the coolest hangout along the backpacker belt in Asia?

Short Cuts
Vietnam is not an easy place to get to. But that's starting to change.

Web Crawling
In this extensive, no-frills guidebook, webmaster and globe-trotter Peter M. Geiser covers Vietnam and the rest of the neighborhood.

Detour
Hanoi's hotel industry has been through plenty. The colonial era was a heyday of luxury and pampering.

Travel Watch Archive Browse hundreds of Asian travel tips

Detour
By RON GLUCKMAN

Hanoi's hotel industry has been through plenty. The colonial era was a heyday of luxury and pampering. More recently cautious guests based their choice of lodging on the condition of the nearest bomb shelter. A quarter-century of communist rule only maintained the industry's state of siege. But a turnaround is now under way, as evidenced by the changing skyline. Most prominent among the newcomers is the imposing Hilton Hanoi Opera, tel: (844) 933-0500. Although the name recalls the infamous Vietnam War prison dubbed the Hanoi Hilton, the building is modeled on its next-door neighbor, the century-old opera house, Vietnam's most famous landmark. The 269-room hotel is a perfect reproduction of the theater. Now in its second year, the Hilton brings to the capital five-star lodging, modern meeting rooms and a great bakery.

For a taste of old Indochine, regulars return year after year to the stately Metropole, tel: 826-6919. Built at the turn of the century, the Metropole was lavishly refurbished when the French group Sofitel took over the management in 1989. The opening of the Opera Wing seven years later brought the hotel up to its current 244 rooms. Yet the pearly-white colonial establishment has changed little since the days when famous guests regularly trouped through. Charlie Chaplin honeymooned here, and writers like Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham found inspiration in the spacious rooms overlooking lovely interior courtyard gardens. After dusting off years of war and neglect, Hanoi's hotels are sure to inspire a new generation of travelers.

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