Hanoi’s Oldest Hotel Will Open Secret Bunker To Visitors This Week

bunkerDuring hotel renovations last August at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi in Vietnam, construction workers discovered an unknown bunker thought to be used during the Vietnam War. While drilling near the poolside bar, they found a flooded hallway, numerous rooms and a staircase leading to the secret 500-square-foot bunker. Moreover, wine bottles, unbroken light bulbs, graffiti and air ducts were also found, according to VietNamNet.

“In the hotel’s history, there is a story of the American folk singer, Joan Baez, who sought shelter in this bunker during the Christmas Bombings in 1972, and who sang some songs beside a Vietnamese guitarist,” explains Kai Speth, the hotel’s General Director. “We don’t know of any other hotels, in Vietnam or anywhere else for that matter, that maintained a shelter for guests and staff.”

The luxury hotel is the oldest in Hanoi, boasting a 110-year history that has welcomed guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, Fidel Castro and Somerset Maugham. That will be celebrated, along with the opening of the bunker to guests, on May 21, 2012. Likewise, people who actually spent time in the bunker, such as Bob Devereaux, the Australian diplomat who carved his name into the bunker in 1975, will also be present at the opening ceremony.

[image via The Metropole Blog]According to the hotel’s blog, some guests were given a sneak-peek of the Bunker. As a recording played of “Where Are You Now My Son,” a song Baez made there in 1972, each guest was brought back in time to those scary days.

“I knew that my guests were the beneficiaries of a powerful feeling for a place, and the past,” writes Speth on the blog. “Usually, people travel beyond the confines of a hotel for such experiences. But how lucky, I thought standing there with those 10 Americans, that my guests could experience that right here with us.”

Hollywood In Cambodia: Buenos Aires’ Only Bar and Urban Art Gallery In One

hollywood in cambodia Buenos Aires in Argentina has one of the most vibrant art scenes in all the world. Walking down the streets of the city, you’ll see colorful, political and passionate works of graffiti art on every corner. If you’re looking for a truly unique way to experience the art scene in Buenos Aires, one option is to visit the city’s only bar and urban art gallery in one, Hollywood in Cambodia.

Hollywood in Cambodia opened in 2006, when the owners of Post Street Bar decided to do something different with the space. They approached a number of stencil artists and asked them to help paint the interior of the bar. While the artists and owners got along well, the artists wanted compensation, as the bar was a commercial space. Because the owners didn’t have the money, they came up with a different plan. They offered the artists three rooms at the back of the bar, rent free, to use however they pleased. From there, the artists covered every inch of the bar and terrace with intricate stencil art. One room became a permanent gallery and shop, and the two others were transformed into temporary exhibition spaces. This is what visitors can experience today.The gallery is run by six artists: Stencil Land, Malatesta, GG & NN from bs.as.stncl, Fede Minuchin and Tester from rundontwalk. They run the gallery together, opening it from Tuesday to Sunday, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. About 8 to 10 exhibitions are run each year, with works being showcased from a range of urban artists and art collectives.

graffitiWhile an art gallery being housed in a bar is, in itself, rare in Buenos Aires, there are other factors that make the space truly unique. First of all, it’s the only gallery in the city to focus solely on urban art. And, unlike other galleries, they are free from commercial pressures.

“They don’t have rent or bills to pay, so they can do whatever they want with the space,” explains Jonny Robson of graffitimundo, a main supporter of the venue. “They can take risks and showcase unconventional art, without worrying if it’s going to sell or not.”

What’s really interesting when you walk into the space is how hard it is to tell where the gallery starts and where the bar stops. All of the bar space – the outside walls, terrace and even the toilets – have been covered in art. This is because the artists use the bar as an extension of the gallery space, running workshops and video screenings. Understandably, the bar ends up being a popular place to hangout for the artists and their friends. In fact, exhibition opening nights showcasing cutting edge art often end up becoming wild parties.

“It’s a very special place, and very unique for Buenos Aires,” says Robson. “To be honest, I’m not sure if there’s anywhere quite like it anywhere else in the world.”

[photos via graffitimundo]

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Tahiti

tahiti Located in the South Pacific, Tahiti is thought of by many as a prime vacation destination. But what do you actually know about these islands? To test your Tahitian knowledge, here are 10 things you probably didn’t know.

1. The official languages of the country are both Tahitian and French. However, English is also widely spoken on most of the islands.

2. What is commonly known as “Tahiti” or “The Islands of Tahiti” is officially categorized as an Overseas Country of France, with its own government overseeing all international decisions on behalf of French Polynesia.

3. There are 118 islands and atolls spread out over five archipelagos.

4. Most Polynesians believe the mythical island of Hawaiki, today known as Raiatea, rose from the bottom of the ocean and was the beginning of all life on Earth.

5. The over-water bungalow was invented in the islands of Tahiti 45 years ago.

6. On Fakarava, there is a church called Jean de la Croix made completely of coral.

7. The Islands of Tahiti is the only country in the world to have a winery, Vin du Tahiti, on a coral atoll.

8. The word “tattoo” originated in French Polynesia. The legend of Tohu, the god of tattoo, talks about painting all the fish in the ocean and showing their vibrant colors and designs. In Polynesian culture, tattoos are thought to be signs of beauty, and were ceremoniously applied to the body as a celebration of adolescence in earlier times.

9. Mount Temehani on the island of Raiatea is home to the Tiare Apetahi flower. This flower will not grow anywhere else in the world, despite botanists having tried to replant it for centuries.

10. The Tahitian alphabet contains only 13 letters.

For a more visual idea of Tahiti’s lesser-known side, check out the gallery below.

[flickr image via Michael R. Perry]

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Argentina’s National Pastime: Pato




While most people believe soccer to be Argentina‘s national pastime, I was surprised to learn from a local that it’s actually something with very unsavory beginnings. Pato, or duck, is a game that combines polo and basketball, and is the national sport of Argentina. To play, two teams of four on horseback fight for possession of a ball that is equipped with six leather handles. The object of the game is to fling the ball into a tall net, as the team with the most goals is the winner. So why is the game called duck? Because in the early days, gauchos used a live duck instead of a ball. Back then, the game was so intense that many players lost their lives not only by being trampled by the horses, but also by being stabbed in moments of passion.

For a better idea on how the game is played, check out the video above.

Earth Day Travel: Recycled Sites From Around the United States

recycle Recycling – with all of the environmental issues the world is facing as well as the upcoming Earth Day holiday – is a hot topic. However, while most people think of recycling in terms of paper, plastic and aluminum, there is another type of recycling that is becoming a growing trend across America: re-purposing travel destinations.

Imagine eating in a restaurant that was once a church, immersing you in an atmosphere of stained glass windows, an alter and Biblical murals. Or, what about sleeping in a hotel that not only housed foreign diplomats after Pearl Harbor and served as an Army Hospital for wounded soldiers, but also held a classified secret government bunker used by Congress? Instead of getting rid of history, these types of places are refurbishing them and allowing travelers to experience them in a new way.

To help celebrate Earth Day, we’ve put together a list of recycled travel sites from around the United States. For a visual idea of these unique places, check out the gallery below.

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[flickr image via mandiberg]