A cultural mix of Chinese, Japanese and French influences, historic Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s most romantic towns. A major port in Asia in the 19th century, it has dwindled in importance in trade, but the silver lining is that this has helped to keep the city’s grand architecture intact. Hoi An Old Town is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and booming tourist destination.
Hoi An’s allure comes from it laid-back demeanour and old-town character. It is one of Vietnam’s wealthiest towns, as well as a culinary Mecca. The Old Town has preserved its legacy of Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and ancient tea warehouses. Bars, boutique hotels, and bespoke tailor shops line the streets. Yet, just a little further afield, you can easily access the beach and join excursions exploring the natural scenery.
Luxury in Vietnam is often a value-for-money splurge. Located on the pristine Ha My beach, the Nam Hai Hoi An is designed to offer a unique brand of fusion luxe. The 100-villa resort embodies haute design set against sweeping views of the sea. Paris-based architect Reda Amalou and interior decorator Jaya Ibrahim took inspiration from Vietnamese traditions for the Nam Hai, and endowed it with a Zen-like serenity. The hotel’s public spaces are magnificent, including the main restaurant and library. Even the treatment rooms at the spa are arranged around a private lagoon.
A favourite among Thai royals, Hua Hin defies the conventional resort island image and instead offers a mix of sea and city with an upbeat ambience, including lively markets, enticing street food, long beaches and proximity to Bangkok.
Hua Hin’s royal connection can be traced back to the 1920s when kings started building summer residences there. The famous Klai Kangwon Palace is just three kilometres north of Hua Hin and remains a royal summer residence today. Most international hotel brands now have properties in the city, which is also attracting a growing number of wealthy expats retiring to its sunny climes and modern condominiums.
Compared to other resort towns along the coast, Hua Hin has a cleaner, high society image. Seafood is abundant and affordable in this bustling town. Bangkok is only two hours’ drive away, making it the perfect getaway for the capital’s well-heeled and travellers wanting a change of scenery. A detox retreat at a resort is worth considering if you want to purge unwanted weight and toxins after an overindulgent holiday season. For over 15 years, the mobile phone-free, beachside Chiva Som has guided guests through the detox process for weight loss, stress relief, improved fitness or general rejuvenation. The retreats include a health and wellness consultation on arrival, three spa cuisine meals per day, physical analysis, a daily spa treatment and other activities.
Picture-perfect Maldives offers unrivalled luxury, stunning white sand beaches and a magical underwater world that seldom disappoints. It is home to the world’s best beaches, found on each of the country’s 1,000-plus islands. There is even a glow in the dark beach, which is a privileged spectacle enjoyed by those staying at Dusit Thani Maldives in the Baa Atoll. During certain times of the year, the beach, populated by luminescent phytoplankton that gives off a vibrant blue glow as a reaction to disturbances in their environment, becomes a surreal sight of starry sky in the sea.
It is not surprising that the Cheval Blanc Randheli, the latest resort from luxury conglomerate LVMH, would land in Maldives. Located in Noonu Atoll in northwestern Maldives, the über-luxe resort comprises 45 elegant and private villas, each with its own infinity pool, some of which are built over the water. As you would expect from an LVMH property, it has a chic fashion and celebrity clientele, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Unfortunately, some islands in Maldives are disappearing due to natural erosion and rising sea levels. This makes for an even more compelling case to hop on a plane to see this idyllic tropical paradise before it is too late.