Asia

Vietnam

written by | Posted on May 1st, 2009

The spa might be one of the most design-intensive and tranquil settings in the country. Each of the eight treatment rooms is a private pavilion with a relaxation terrace looking over a lotus lake. That lake turns into a mystical jungle setting as night falls and reflected fire pits are lighted.

Complementing the clean and unobstructed beach setting are three swimming pools, one particularly set up for laps. Several dining spots with a view keep appetites for international and Vietnamese cuisine in check, while serving up the eye candy in interior and exterior decor. A 24-hour library offers free Internet and plenty of quality magazines and books. Onsite activities include a staffed children’s lounge, arts & culture classes, lessons in karate at the fitness center, cooking demos, wine tastings and golf sojourns toMontgomerie Links less than five minutes away. Regular shuttles also run between the resort and Hoi An Old Town. A current “night free” package allows guests to pay for two nights and get the third night free or pay for three nights for a complimentary fourth night. Nightly villa rates start at $750.

La Residence, meanwhile, in the historic city of Hue hails back to the city’s 1920s heydays. This Accor property served as the former French governor’s residence with fine views of the Perfume River and a location close to the Citadel and wide, tree-shaded boulevards of Hue. Cyclos vie with taxis to handle the transport needs of guests.

The hotel has 122 rooms, remodeled with modern conveniences but providing glimmers of the former colonial mansion. The art deco corridors and spa cubbies add to this pervading ambiance that seems to toggle from 1930s to the 1950s. A large saltwater swimming pool provides the resort setting, while the fully equipped fitness center, tennis courts and bucolic surroundings do the rest.

The property is the top hotel in town and one well-used by U.S. operators and agents who want to place their clients in an international hotel accustomed to working with American guests. Well-trained staff keep things ticking—coffee that comes on time, Internet that works, air conditioning that quietly cools, and an ambient spa that employs quality European products. And special activities can be booked on site as well: cooking classes, Imperial 10-course dinners with entertainment, bicycle tours and dinner cruises. Rates through October start at $262 and include daily buffet breakfast.

a must Whether booking an independent or organized tour, an overnight cruise around Halong Bay, off the Gulf of Tonkin, makes a relaxing if not eerily compelling segue that will be considered a highlight. The bay is made up of more than 3,000 limestone islands jutting out of the water, a geologic forest that can doom a vessel that does not know these waters. But on the slow flow of a preciously refurbished turn-of-the-century French paddlewheeler, the bay becomes a journey into the past as much as place. One can easily imagine being Graham Greene or Marguerite Duras while watching the bay and filling out postcards from a rattan deck chair. Classic Cruises’ Emeraude is a period vessel that presents a complete experience of Halong Bay—from the 3-hour Hanoi transfers by minivan, to a relaxing cruise, meals, stops for sightseeing and kayaking and even a cool nighttime viewing of the evocative film starring Catherine Deneuve, “Indochine” (much of which takes place in that very spot) aboard the top deck while the boat is moored in a quiet cove. Rates start at $339 sgl, $413 dbl. The ship has 14 superior cabins (all with private bathrooms), 22 deluxe quarters, and two suites. It also offers in-suite spa services for about a sixth of what such would cost on a commercial liner.

nuts and bolts United Airlines has routes to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from the U.S. west coast. Visas are necessary for U.S. citizens and can be obtained through embassy offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.