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Asia travel

The bizarre ‘monkey hotel’ in Da Nang, Vietnam, where Xi, Trump, Putin are meeting on November 11

Apec leaders and other world leaders are about to gather in Da Nang at the monkey-themed InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, known for its population of rare red-shanked doucs. Expect some monkey business

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 5:54pm

Whatever happens at November 11’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam, there is sure to be some monkey business.

US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to attend meetings about free trade in the Asia-Pacific region, but the venue – the huge InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort – is better known for primates than politicians.

Take, for instance, its Cheeky Monkey nightclub. Not only does the dance floor feature ropes, swings and transparent floors, but there are karaoke rooms decked out with banana-shaped seating.

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There’s even a banana-themed cinema room. Move into the chill-out area and things get even odder.

Styled as a library that includes a bar, the entire area is styled as if it was the home of a fictional English monkey called Charles. On the wall is a painting of Winston Churchill as a chimp, while the bookshelves around the walls contain papier mâché heads of characters like Michael Jackson and Harry Potter, each with measured monkey features.

All of this simian strangeness is the brainchild of Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley, who completed this resort inside the Son Tra Nature Reserve in 2012 as a tribute to the area’s native inhabitants.

The resort clings to the side of what US soldiers in the 1960s called Monkey Mountain for its population of beautiful red-shanked doucs.

There are rope-ladders in the canopy to help the monkeys get in and out of the resort, and the hotel’s shops all sell toy monkeys.

The doucs are about 1.2 metres tall with huge inquisitive eyes, yellow faces and rusty-red legs. Despite them forming communities and hierarchies, individuals and families of doucs never fight each other.

Nor do they make much noise; if you spot one in the resort’s wonderfully wild zone, the chances are that it will already be looking at you.

Sadly, the doucs are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and there are fewer than 300 left in the wild. The Douc Langur Foundation (DLF) regularly removes traps and snares from the forested slopes of the small Son Tra Peninsula, but is having some success at increasing the numbers.

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Building the resort hasn’t particularly helped the cause of the doucs, which depend on the ever-shrinking forest, but the ease of seeing them here is increasing international attention on their plight. Guests can also go on a rainforest tour in a Vietnam War-era jeep up to Ban Co Peak, where on clear day you can see all the way to Hainan, China.

But there’s more to the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort than monkeys. Perhaps the most bizarre is the Nam-Tram, a small funicular pod that buzzes up and down the hillside between the three levels of the resort.

Every fine resort needs a culinary giant, and here it’s fulfilled by the elegant La Maison 1888, where Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire (who also has a two-Michelin starred restaurant, Pierre, in Hong Kong) creates classic French cuisine.

The building itself is a fantastic recreation of a French colonial house – complete with funky decor telling the story of a fictional French family’s children (don’t miss the Traveller’s Room or the racy Le Boudoir de Madame).

But the highlight is the adjoining Buffalo Bar’s outdoor space.

The private feel of its veranda, which gives the finest views over the bay, make it the resort’s top sunset spot.

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Down at sea-level, things are just as chilled. Barefoot restaurant serves seafood galore and private beach barbecue dinners, while the casual Long Bar’s roof hosts an exquisite infinity pool and secluded lounging areas. All are great places to enjoy a drink, watch the ocean, and spot primates – or, next week, perhaps even a politician.