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article imageFrom Brangelina to Kim and Trump: Key Hanoi summit venues

By Richard CARTER (AFP)     Feb 27, 2019 in World

The hotel hosting the dinner later Wednesday between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un has welcomed stars ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Brad Pitt and offers tours of its war-time bomb shelters.

Here's a look at the historic Colonial-era Metropole Hotel, as well as other key summit locations around the Vietnamese capital.

- Graham Greene suite anyone? -

The names of the Metropole's suites pay tribute some of its more famous guests -- authors Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham, and actor Charlie Chaplin, who spent his honeymoon here. The bar even serves up a $10 "Charlie Chaplin" cocktail -- a gin, apricot brandy and lime juice concoction.

Not yet deemed worthy of a suite named after them are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, although the hotel does boast a cocktail lounge, restaurant and whisky lounge called "Angelina" where "the very best from Europe and the New World comes in perfect measure."

The hotel is now run by the French-owned Accor Group and is one of one Hanoi's priciest hotels with publicly listed top rooms going for $1,300 per night.

- Bombs and brunch -

The French-built Metropole opened for business in 1901 and has played a full part in Hanoi's tumultuous history ever since.

After the French were defeated in the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu of 1954, the hotel was taken over by Vietnamese owners and renamed the "Thong Nhat Hotel" which means "Reunification" in the local language.

During the Vietnam War the hotel built underground bomb shelters -- today opened for tours for hotel guests. According to the hotel's website, the shelters were discovered by chance during renovation of the Bamboo Bar in 2011.

American singer Joan Baez stayed at the hotel in 1972 as part of her anti-war campaign and wrote her song "Where Are You Now, My Son?" during her stay.

- Kim's Rolls-Royce accommodation -

Security was ultra-tight outside Kim's Melia Hotel
Security was ultra-tight outside Kim's Melia Hotel
Ye Aung Thu, AFP

North Korea's Kim is staying at the modern Melia Hotel in downtown Hanoi, which has previously welcomed world leaders including Cuba's Raul Castro, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Iran's Hassan Rouhani. Their images adorn the lavish lobby.

Opened 20 years ago, the 306-room hotel is also home to the city's only Rolls-Royce dealership catering to Vietnam's fast-growing class of super-rich.

Trump and Kim bonded over luxury cars at their first summit in Singapore last June when the US leader opened the door of his presidential wheels, dubbed "The Beast", to let Kim take a peek inside.

However, the bill for its top room, the "level suite" is "flexible and top secret", a staff member told AFP this week.

- 'Double-booked' -

The Melia was the scene of a rather awkward double-booking snafu as the White House press centre was slated to be located there -- as well as Kim and his copious entourage.

Just one problem: The North Koreans took exception to the presence of the White House press corps in the same building and the reporters were turfed out to the International Press Centre.

NBC's White House correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted that he was booted out by a gruff Vietnamese security official and ordered not to use the elevator from the seventh floor ... because that would mean stepping on the freshly rolled-out red carpet prepared for Kim.

- 'Free-flow oysters' -

"Free flow oysters" on the menu at Trump's hotel
"Free flow oysters" on the menu at Trump's hotel
EMMANUEL DUNAND, AFP/File

Trump's hotel, the JW Marriott, boasts one of Hanoi's most expensive brunches that may tempt the famously heavy-eating president.

For the eye-watering (by Vietnamese standards) price of 1.25 million dong ($55), diners are treated to a "free flow of house wine, champagne and oyster" as well as other delights such as lobsters, foie gras and abalone.

However, Trump might pass given the bulky five-course lunch he was served at lunch on Wednesday ahead of his dinner with Kim -- with Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal on the menu.

Former US president Barack Obama stayed at the JW Marriott -- about 10 kilometers from Hanoi's historic downtown -- when he visited Vietnam in 2016.

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