A NEW DAWN

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Published on November 02, 2018 with No Comments

Vietnam is the next big hot spot.

Words ANIS RAMLI

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Cau Hai Lagoon is one of the largest freshwater lagoon systems in Southeast Asia. Credit(s): Huong Lan/Balcony Media

 

Vietnam is changing. That’s the short of it.

If its wars once defined the literary culture and shaped populist thoughts, today’s Vietnam aims to correct that perception. The country’s Orientalism mystic was never lost upon literary greats such as Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene. Through their lens, Vietnam was the “Far East” waiting to be discovered for its grand hotels and colonial charm. Hollywood too, has helped the Vietnamese shift. In such films such as Kong, for example, we finally see the country’s wildly diverse landscapes and majestic scenery represented for what they are than beyond a template for a bruised battlefield.

Vietnam’s serpentine shape and lengthy coastline is any photographer’s – and traveller’s – dream. As one travels around this Southeast Asian country, the scenery can change from terraced rice fields one moment (Sapa) to the soft desert dunes of Mui Ne the next. There’s just an incredible breadth and depth to Vietnam. Itinerary favourites include Vietnam’s economic hub Ho Chi Minh City with its frenetic yet infectious pace, Hanoi’s labyrinthine Old Quarter, the limestone karsts of Halong Bay, the ancient imperial capital at Hue, Hoi An’s quaint UNESCO-heritage listed Old Town, the bustling beach city of Danang, pristine Phu Quoc island and the mighty Mekong Delta where the river that rushes through the southern lowlands before branching off into tiny canals create a community in itself.

Six Senses together with the Evason brand, were among the first international luxury hotel companies to operate in Vietnam. Evason Ana Mandara was opened in 1997 in Nha Trang. “Nha Trang was still largely undeveloped although we saw the huge potential growth for this destination,” says says Ateeb Shrestha, General Manager, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay. “Fast forward to almost 20 years, Nha Trang has seen almost every international brand having presence there and there’s still many more to come.” Today Six Senses has properties in Ninh Van Bay, a private bay accessible only by boat, surrounded by towering mountains and lush forest which is home to the endangered langurs and Six Senses Con Dao, a national and marine park with incredible nature and underwater life including nesting site for the green turtles.

Similarly, the hotelier Adrian Zecha, who created Aman resorts, launched his new brand, Azerai, in Can Tho. Located on the Hau River, a Mekong tributary, Can Tho is Vietnam’s fourth largest city. The opening of the 60-room resort is expected to be a catalyst for further hotel development in the Mekong Delta, an area famed for the Cai Rang floating market, handmade rice noodle workshops and cacao farms, to name a few.

And there are still a host of up and coming destinations that are gaining attention and traction, including, for example, stunning Cam Ranh in southern Vietnam. Blessed with some of the country’s best weather (it boasts an average of more than 300 sunny days a year), Cam Ranh was singled out by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the world’s “best places to travel in May” 2018. “The fact that so much is happening in Vietnam is all the more impressive in light of just how quickly things have progressed here,” says Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, General Manager of The Anam. “The World Bank describes Vietnam’s rapid progress from being one of the world’s poorest countries only a few decades ago to its current lower middle income status as “remarkable”. Vietnam has enjoyed the world’s second-fastest growth rate in GDP per person since 1990, and no doubt tourism has played a role in this positive trajectory.”

Vietnam’s biggest island is also Vietnam’s hottest new destination. Renowned for its natural splendour, placid waters, iconic fish sauce, black pepper and prominent place in the history of the Nguyen Dynasty, Phu Quoc island is fast developing a reputation as Vietnam’s answer to Thailand’s Phuket. “The beach experience on Phu Quoc is one of a kind in Vietnam. This is a tropical island setting that comes right out of a storybook and is all the more spectacular every day at dusk when the sun goes down over the Gulf of Thailand,” says Peter Feran, General Manager of Blu Resort Phu Quoc.

As Vietnam’s first Radisson Blu property, Radisson Blu Resort Phu Quoc’s debut heralds a new era for the Radisson Hotel Group. “The group is pursuing all sorts of promising development opportunities in leading Vietnamese destinations from Hanoi to Danang to Ho Chi Minh City. At the same time, the group is exploring Dalat, Hue, Quy Nhon, Mui Ne, Sapa and Hai Phong. Our enthusiasm for this incredible destination is really boundless,” Feran continued. For now, the group is focusing on launching Radisson Blu Resort Cam Ranh Bay and Radisson Resort Phu Quoc, a four-star 218-room property on Truong Beach.

Given just how special Vietnam is and its immense potential, Vietnam’s reinvention as Southeast Asia’s most exciting tourist destination is just beginning. And now, with a relaxation of visa rules and a positive economic outlook, Vietnam is set to rewrite its story.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Ho Chi Minh City 6x weekly for easy connections to other cities in Vietnam. Discover things to do in Vietnam in www.muhibah.com.bn

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