Hué's Vivid Hotel

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Courtesy La Residence

GOVERNING CLASS: The empire endures at La Résidence

French officials in colonial Vietnam were never known to rough it. In fact, anyone curious to see just how cushy an Indo-Chinese posting could be need only check into La Résidence Hôtel & Spa, tel: (84-054)383 7475. Located in the old capital of Hué, this classical colonial villa was built in 1930 to house the French governor of Annam (now Central Vietnam), and since its conversion into a hotel two years ago has been welcoming paying guests for under $200 a night.

The original mansion — an expansive cream-colored Art Deco affair that today accommodates the hotel's sought-after Imperial Suite on its top floor — has been supplemented with two perfectly matching wings, which in total make for 122 guest rooms. Each features a terrace that overlooks either the waters of the Perfume River or the distant stone towers of the former Imperial Citadel. Decked out in warm ocher, dark woods and raw Vietnamese silk, the rooms exude good taste, but the suites in particular benefit from wooden four-poster beds and themed décor that can depart, rather fancifully, from local tradition — one draws its inspiration from ancient Egypt, creating a setting worthy of a swashbuckling Tintin adventure. (See 10 things to do in London.)

If you can bear to detach yourself from your room's colonial cocoon, Hué's majestic citadel (once home to the Emperors of the Nguyen dynasty) and Tu Duc tombs together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are well worth a tarriance. Then again, there's no shame in just kicking back at the hotel, whether you choose to play billiards in the plush lobby, lounge by the 320-sq.-ft. (30 sq m) pool, enjoy a massage at the spa or sample the delicious French-Vietnamese cuisine at Le Parfum, Hué's only fine-dining establishment. After all, it's not every day you can holiday in gubernatorial style.

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