Vietnam's Annam Region Featured by Two Luxury Hotels
PHOTO: Hoi An is just one of the mysterious and UNESCO cited towns of central Vietnam or Annam. (Courtesy of Thinkstock)
When we think of Vietnam, our minds immediately go to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but central Vietnam is the cultural heartland of the country and Hu? is its historic capital. The French had divided Vietnam into three cultural divisions: Cochinchina, the south including Saigon; Tonkin, the north including Hanoi; and Annam, the center including Danang and Hu?. For much of the 19th century France administered Annam in a tense cooperation with the Nguy?n Dynasty that made its capital in Hue. A history of political incursions from Japan and China also lay beneath the surface to make Annam’s cultural mélange especially textured.
Unfortunately, most Americans only became acquainted with Hu? as the most famous front in the Tet Offensive of 1968. For many travelers with experience of Vietnam, Annam contains the highest concentration of natural, cultural, aesthetic and historical dimensions that make the country so compelling. La Residence Hotel & Spa and the Banyan Tree Lang Co have created packages to highlight those dimensions for participating guests.
La Residence Hotel & Spa is set on five acres along Hue’s Perfume River. The 122-room hotel opened in 2005 after opening in a restored Art Deco mansion built in the 1930s as the French governor’s official residence. With its terraces, gardens, louvered shutters, hardwood floors and lofty ceilings, the property recalls its French colonial roots, a spirit that still survives in the hotel’s Le Parfum, which serves Mediterranean and French cuisine, as well as dishes from an expansive Vietnamese menu. The hotel’s Hue location puts it at the center of Southeast Asia’s greatest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The hotel’s five-night Wonders of Vietnam package includes an exploration of each of the five sites. A full day’s journey into Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park brings travelers to the Son Doong Cave. The cave is capacious enough to house a 40-story building and yet it only recently came to light. The cave is home to an underground rain forest with lakes, waterfalls, rivers and populations of monkey and flying fox.
The package spends a half-day visiting the 19th-century funereal cities of Emperors Minh Mang and Tu Duc, which seem to drift out of an East Asian ink painting. There is also a half-day spent in Hoi An’s Old Town. This 16th century seaport was once a Japanese feudal prefectural capital. My Son Sanctuary has been called Vietnam’s answer to Angkor Wat and it’s included among the wonders in the program and visitors spend a half-day among its ancient temples built between the 4th and 13th centuries.
Guests will also attend a performance of Court Music at the Royal Theater inside Hue’s Imperial City. The Wonders of Vietnam package also includes a visit to the city’s famed Dong Ba marketplace and a boat ride on the Perfume River. Priced from $2,500 per person double, the package includes four World Heritage sites and one intangible asset as well as a 90-minute spa treatment at the hotel’s spa, an imperial dinner, and the tours. The package can be booked through Dec. 20.
In June, the hotel became one of the founding members the Quintessential Collection Vietnam, which represents themselves as “the five top hotels in each of Vietnam’s top five destinations.” The other properties are the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, the Nam Hai in Hoi An, the Reverie Saigon and the Paradise Cruises on Halong Bay.
Banyan Tree Adventures
The Banyan Tree Spa Lang Co sits on two miles of private beach and is home to the Laguna Lang Co golf course, an 18-hole championship course designed by Nick Faldo, which dramatically embraces the sea and the mountains into a refined design. The hotel offers guided treks into the mountains or to the beaches on the coast.
The hotel lies 75 miles from Bach Ma National Park, home to more than 2,000 plants, insects, birds and mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Adventurous guests can go farther afield to remote National Park Phong Nha-ke where researchers have found 112 species of mammals, more than 380 vertebrate and 1,320 different plants, plus nine species of monkeys, including gibbons, macaques and langurs.
The porous rock of the mountains have created more than 300 caves and grottoes, including the biggest cave in the world, as well as underground waterfalls and 40 miles of underground rivers, eight miles of which can be explored by boat.
The hotel’s two-night Sense of Romance package is priced from $1,800 per couple and includes a Banyan Tree Lagoon Pool Villa, daily breakfast, unlimited spa treatments, dinner for two with a bottle of wine at one of the resort’s Destination Dining locations or the couple can choose to have In-Villa Dining. In addition, the package includes airport transfers to and from Da Nang International Airport by private car, full-day private car and driver with tour guide (choice of visiting Hoi An, Hue or Truc Lam Island), a 20 percent discount on Best Available Rate for extended stay or additional villas, and late check-out.
More by James Ruggia
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