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Joan Baez returns to past in Vietnam


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Baez got in contact with the hotel after seeing media reports of the bunker being unearthed. She gave friends of hers visiting Hanoi in December a signed copy of "Where Are You Now, My Son?" with the instructions they should give it to the hotel management if "they are the right people" and, if they weren’t, to bring it home again.

They handed it over to Metropole general manger Kai Speth, who led the hunt for the shelter and is proud of the hotel’s history. He gave Baez’s friends a book about the hotel with a note to Baez saying he would love to welcome her back. In February, she emailed saying she would like to come. Less than two months later she was walking through the door.

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"I don’t believe in coincidences," said Baez. "Something in me was ready to come back and apparently hadn’t been up until now."

On the Saturday before her flight left, Baez shared tales of life of Hanoi under American attack and the hotel’s history with former staff, including its hairdresser and general manager. Many of them were on double duty: digging graves for the victims of the bombing as well as serving the hotel guests.

The ex-general manager gave her an embroidered bag, which she said she would use to carry the soaps she planned to steal from the hotel. Housekeeper Tieu Phuong said she remembered Baez staying at the hotel. She also remembered seeing some American pilots, who were released from Hanoi jail at the end of the war, staying at the hotel before flying home and thinking "they looked so nice, how could they bomb our country?"

Under the hazy spring sun, Baez took her hand and tried to explain: "It’s so true; they were just kids, they were just following orders."




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