How a 16th Century Love Story Inspired Hotel Royal Hoi An’s Design
The sturdy wood homes with Japanese support joists, Chinese tiled roofs, French louvered shutters and bright yellow walls that line Hoi An’s lantern-lit stone streets, canals and bridges are relics from the city’s unique history of foreign influence.
In the 16th century, Hoi An emerged as a major trading port, inviting traders from all over Asia. No story better exemplifies the city’s confluence of cultures than that of Sotaro Araki and Princess Ngoc Hoa. When working in the city in the late 1500s, the Japanese merchant fell in love and married the Vietnamese aristocrat, after which they moved to Japan and she took on the Japanese name Wakaku. Their story inspired the city’s modern-day boutique Hotel Royal Hoi An.
The hotel is a place “where one can be whisked back in time to a bygone era of imperial traders and princesses,” according to General Manager Raetus Balzer. This idea is exemplified by the second wing that was opened this year and named after, and taking influence from, Wakaku. Each of the rooms contains a sleek feminine touch and nods to Hoi An’s unique merging of styles. The delicate, curved furniture, tiffany blue pillows and paintings, a graceful bathtub surrounded by lavish curtains and leaf-mold door handles give respect to the decor the princess enjoyed during her life.
Hotel Royal’s first wing, named Sotaro, has a more traditional, Japanese aesthetic. Rich, dark wood floors and latticework contrast metal accouterments. Lanterns that blend both Japanese and Vietnamese styles fill the room with soft light. Most of the private balconies offer spectacular views of the placid Thu Bon River, while large doors welcome sweeping breezes. Guests can enjoy this same ambiance in the main lobby, sipping their welcome tea, sitting in stately plush chairs beneath ceiling mirrors accented with Japanese leaf paintings.
While many five-star resorts are being built in the area, Hotel Royal is the only one located in the city center. A short walk along the river takes visitors to the Old Town to explore original architectural styles, the city’s famous tailor and leather shops and authentic restaurants serving special dishes like cao lầu (thick noodles with pork and local greens) and bánh bao – bánh vạc, or white rose, which are delicate, handmade dumplings.
While Hoi An provides ample sights and experiences, there is plenty of reason to stay on the resort’s premises. When the light catches the tiles on the floor of the large Art Nouveau style pool, they blink and sparkle like dowry jewels. The Woosah Spa offers a variety of beautifying and refreshing treatments while a full fitness center offers guests a chance to exercise in cool peace.
The story of Sotoro and Wakaka extends to the dining options at the Royal Hoi An. A Japanese restaurant named Wakaka serves fresh sashimi and sushi dishes, while the Faifo restaurant pays homage to Hoi An’s eclectic food history. Eponymous for the city by foreign traders, it serves a variety of Vietnamese and Western dishes including Hoi An specialties. In the morning, a complimentary breakfast buffet spans dim sum, omelets, lotus root salads, quiche and pad thai.
The hotel makes use of its prime location with the highest rooftop bar and pool in the city. As the sunset streaks the sky with opal colors, fading light glints off the ceramic roofs of the Old Town, brightly colored boats paddle up the Thu Bon surrounded by bright lanterns and light falls calmly on the lush mountains in the distance. Balzer notes that the majestic views of the river and town from the pool bar give guests a glimpse of the “heritage and charm of this unique destination.”
Hoi An’s distinct architectural style and vibe make it a must-see destination for local and international tourists, and the Hotel Royal serves as the ideal place to explore it. The boutique hotel’s carefully designed and individually decorated rooms connect guests to the city’s heritage through the story of Wakaka and Sotaro while pampering them with the finest service, meals and amenities.