After staying in boutique hotels, tucking into the finest food, and dipping a toe in crystal waters, Graeme only wished he’d travelled to Vietnam sooner.
Preconceptions of Vietnam
As with most boys from the 1980s, my impression of Vietnam was moulded from Rambo, Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Good Morning Vietnam, so I had quite jaded opinions. I still thought of Vietnam as an old communist nation ravaged by a devastating war.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when I travelled extensively in Asia, that I met so many travellers who loved the country. Although I was curious, it didn’t have any surf that I knew of, so I dismissed it out of hand. I was into surfing and simply travelled the world looking for waves… The surf scene in Apocalypse Now was actually filmed in the Philippines. I know, shocking. It killed my childhood dream of ever surfing in Vietnam!
As I entered adulthood (kicking and screaming), I moved on from the champagne tastes and lemonade wallet of my twenties. My career blossomed in London, so I could splurge on the occasional champagne and Michelin-starred moments. Although I didn’t become a bon viveur living la vida loca, I did start appreciating the finer things in life, and have since had the pleasure of staying in quite a few five-star resorts and hotels.
Visiting for the first time
And now that I’m living in these post feral travelling years, and having experienced these trappings associated with a more refined 2.0 mature existence, I thought I had discovered all of the best places to go in Asia and really didn’t think my travels would take me to Vietnam. But that they did and in 2017 I headed off to discover it for myself, as you do. What I found surprised me; it’s a wondrous, visually stunning place, that’s safe, and so welcoming!
With boutique hotels, secluded hideaways and romantic retreats in idyllic surroundings, it also has an abundance of luxury accommodation that would put many of Asia’s five-star choices in the shade. There are private beaches and spectacular natural beauty, as well culturally-rich cities – everything for independent travellers, families or couples looking for something really special (a refreshing alternative to the clichéd honeymoon places that feature in bridal magazines… Not that I read bridal magazines. You get my point).
Is it a luxury destination?
I think that the secret to luxury is subtle and refined comfortable surroundings. If you want gold-plated everything – with extra lashings of overpriced haute cuisine – go to Dubai with the Kardashians. If, on the other hand, you want unspoilt surroundings, with pleasant rather than subservient hotel staff and food to die for, go to Vietnam!
The thing that sets the country apart for me is its simple, unpretentious style. With ruins of old empires, captivating UNESCO sites and lush green jungles and mountains, it still feels adventurous and off the beaten track. Perfect if you want something more than just sitting around in a fancy hotel. As well as having some of the world’s best luxury accommodation, I also found out that Vietnam also has one of world’s top 5 Michelin-starred restaurants. Hike by day, dine in style by night.
My favourite luxury accommodation
I stayed in the Park Hyatt in Ho Chi Minh City (known to us 1980s kids as Saigon), the Mia resort in Mui Ne and the Mia Resort in Nha Trang. I could regale countless superlatives as to why you should go, or quote TripAdvisor’s top luxury accommodation list. But I liked these hotels not because of the world-renowned spas, complimentary Lancôme bathroom products, Michelin-starred dining experiences, or secluded surroundings, but because they are classic, with unique scenery, and a charm I haven’t experienced elsewhere.
If you’re well-travelled, or want a balance between luxury and adventure, Vietnam is one of the world’s best kept secrets… *he says in a sultry whispering voice like the lady in the luxury holiday television advert.*
PS. It also turns out you can surf in Vietnam! There’s nothing quite like living out a dream in a magical place. It’s as far removed from my childhood misconceptions as I could have ever possibly imagined.
If Graeme’s change of heart has you pondering that Vietnam holiday, we’d be happy to help you plan.