Skip to main content

JON UNDERWOOD reviews the Hotel Royal Hoi An in Vietnam that has a romantic background.

IT’S A balancing act that few truly master.

How to keep the old while incorporating the new. Often those that attempt it fall between two stools, finding it impossible to make the twains meet.

I’ve just stayed at a hotel that blends the ancient and the modern in a seamless transition.

The Hotel Royal Hoi An is situated next to the Old Quarter of the town, which is in itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet the 187-room, five-star hotel has its own historical tale to tell – and it’s a remarkable love story.

Princess Ngoc Hoa was a member of the native Hue royal family who met and fell in love with Japanese merchant Sotaro Araki in the late 16th century.

Their union was regarded as the very first between a Vietnamese and a foreigner and their story inspired the design of the Hotel Royal.

The Sotaro Wing offers a blend of Japanese tradition and Indochinese luxury while the Wakaku Wing displays more feminine touches (the Princess took the name Wakaku when she moved to Japan with her new husband).

My room was clean, comfortable and spacious, with a huge bed that could easily accommodate an entire family (we all know it’s all about the bed in hotel rooms!).

A small balcony allowed me to watch locals and tourists walking along the Thu Bon River while the hotel’s ideal location close to the Old Quarter made for quick and convenient access to all Hoi An has to offer – which is plenty.

“Hoi An offers more than just a visit to the old town,” Stuart Murphy, General Manager, told Traveltalk.

“It is uniquely positioned close to local beaches and golf courses, but you can still feel you are in a rural location with the rice paddy fields close to the town centre.

“Hoi An has developed a strong focus towards the environment and sustainability. It is also a photographers dream location and for followers of art and crafts alike.”

I took Stuart’s advice and explored all the alleyways and back streets around the old town to capture the true essence of Vietnamese lifestyle. The food was to die for and really inexpensive, as was the shopping. Bartering is expected so this is a great place to bag a bargain, particularly if you’re looking for clothes, leather goods, shoes and jewellery.

And after a hard day’s sightseeing and shopping, what better than to kick back with a cocktail and watch the sunset from the hotel’s rooftop bar, which also has a pool for those who like to swim and sip (there’s a big pool downstairs, too).

“Our goal is to leave our guests with unforgettable memories,” added Stuart.

“This is amplified by the well-spoken reputation throughout Vietnam that locals of Hoi An are considered one of the friendliest people in the country.”

I can certainly vouch for that. As the country gains in popularity, it’s likely more and more Aussies are going to be saying “G’day, Vietnam.”