Hanoi hotel opens wartime bomb shelter as memorial

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The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel will open a recently discovered bunker as part of its "˜Path of History' exhibition, which details the history of the French colonial landmark.

Discovered, by chance, a year ago in the hotel's back garden, the air raid shelter will be officially opened as an attraction on May 21.

"Hotels are always opening new outlets," said Kai Speth, the hotel's general manager. "New restaurants, new bars, new spas. But it's not everyday that a hotel opens an old bomb shelter."

The 40-square-meter shelter has been preserved in its original state as a tribute to the hotel's wartime employees, who ushered guests into the relative safety of the underground chamber from the mid-1960s through the Christmas bombings in 1972.

"The hotel shelter is a long, narrow, semi-subterranean concrete room, which I thought would have made a groovy discotheque," wrote Gemma Cruz Araneta, a Filipino journalist in a May 1968 journal entry.

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Araneta will attend the May 21 ceremony, so will Bob Devereaux, an Australian diplomat who scratched his name into a wall of the shelter in 1975, and Andreas Augustin, a historian who has written a book about the hotel's history.

The show will feature 13 exhibition plates along the hotel corridor, introducing more than 300 celebrity guests, including Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene, Jane Fonda, Joan Baez and Angelina Jolie.

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