It used to be Thailand. Soon it will be Cambodia. But right now, Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s coolest holiday destination. Savvy travellers are jumping on 12-hour flights to enjoy great beaches, a laid-back atmosphere and good food. And unlike Thailand, you won’t feel as though everyone and their neighbour has followed you: last year Vietnam had seven million tourists, while Bangkok alone had ten million. So book your flights now. Here are four suggestions for where to stay when you get there.
Chen Sea Resort & Spa, Phu Quoc
Get away from it all on the island of Phu Quoc (above). This is a “bungalow resort with stylish wooden huts nestling in the undergrowth behind a small private beach”, says Stylist.co.uk. The “villas are almost colonial in style, with high beamed ceilings, wooden carved artwork and either a covered outdoor rain shower or sunken mosaic bath”.
Outside there’s an infinity pool to lounge by, with excellent service: “One wave of your flag and an attendant appears as if by magic”. The island is just a 50-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City, but even that short distance has enabled it to remain “unspoilt… retaining the traditional Vietnamese culture and warmth of the local people”. Villas from £216 (Centarahotelsresorts.com).
Sofitel Legend Metropole, Hanoi
In the heart of Hanoi lies this “white-painted, green-shuttered confection of a hotel, where Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham and Charlie Chaplin congregated”, says Charlotte Sinclair in Condé Nast Traveller. The 100-year-old building has been restored by the Sofitel group and welcomes everyone, from young couples to ‘grey gappers’ (older people on round-the-world trips), with “bellboys in pillbox hats, smiling girls in Ao Dai” (Vietnamese traditional dress), not to mention the “moody, lacquered bar serving martinis”. There are also three restaurants to choose from. Doubles from £150 per night (Sofitel.com).
The Alcove Library Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
This “elegant hotel with its French-style façade and Parisian-like courtyard garden” is a ten-minute drive from downtown Ho Chi Minh City, says Lara Dunston in The Guardian. “Once inside, you’ll find prettily tiled floors, comfy padded armchairs, black and white prints, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves crammed with reading material, and more books in the 38 classical rooms.” Just be aware that the rooftop restaurant bar serves American, not French, food. Doubles from £58 (Alcovehotel.com.vn).
Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa
“On the lip of one of Southeast Asia’s largest lagoons, and backed by hills and a national park, the two-year-old Vedana is a low-key gem,” says Sinclair. There are 20 thatched hill cottages (of which nine have their own pools) surrounded by vegetation, which keeps each nicely private – “you’re a loud shout away from your neighbour”. There are also ten villas on stilts in the lagoon, where “fishing skiffs slide over the beaten-silver surface leaving barely a ripple”.
You can watch all the action “from your enormous bed, especially if you’re in one of the over-water rooms, where marble floors lead to a breakfast terrace, the bath is grey-marble egg, and the shower alfresco”. But don’t be fooled by the mod-cons: this is “a small, off-map spot with a slower way of life”. In all, it’s a “charming (and charmed) find”. Doubles from around £75 (Vedanalagoon.com).