Adding to the high-octane atmosphere, Vietnam’s boom has attracted top spas, chic restaurants and trendy new hot spots. You’ll find fashionable shopping and fine dining in Dong Khoi with its French colonial buildings. One has only to stroll Cholon’s streets bustling with markets and ornate pagodas to see that Vietnam’s most sophisticated city hasn’t lost its Saigonese charm. Visit the grand reception halls of the historic Reunification Palace, former home of the South Vietnamese President. Then enjoy a sunset cocktail at the famed Rex Hotel’s rooftop café, a familiar landmark for Americans during the Vietnam War. For an authentic dinner Cuc Gach Quan is unsurpassed. Don’t miss a short trip out of town to the ingenious multilevel Cu Chi tunnels, used by the Vietcong during the war.
Stay: The luxurious 5 star Park Hyatt, ideally located on Lam Son in the heart of Saigon’s central square, next to the Opera House, features French colonial inspired decor, an inviting pool surrounded by landscaped gardens and the acclaimed Xuan Spa. Deluxe rooms and suites with terraces are beautifully done in beiges and glowing hardwoods, decorated with historic photographs of Saigon. Highly regarded restaurant ‘Square One’ offers exceptional Vietnamese fare. www.parkhyattsaigon.com
Six Senses Resort & Spa - Con Dao
The Con Dao Archipelago off the southern coast is known for exquisite white sand beaches and has become a favorite of the smart set. From Saigon it’s a short flight to Con Son, the largest island, and Six Senses Resort & Spa situated on beautiful Dat Doc Beach. Remote and romantic, this heavenly retreat delivers unparalleled, exclusive luxury. It’s the perfect place to relax after bustling Saigon, ideal for honeymooners and couples alike. The island boasts deserted beaches, magnificent reefs, a rich marine life and jungle clad mountains. Additionally, the resort is set in a national park famous for hawksbill and green marine turtles.
This five star gem with stunning seafront villas, each with its own spacious pool, terrace, Bose stereo, butler and every top amenity, is the ultimate designer castaway experience. Floor to ceiling windows in the stylish contemporary villas offer scenic ocean views. Take in golden sunsets and starry evening skies from your own private deck. There are a host of aquatic, hiking and nature activities. Many guests prefer to lounge, sun and swim from the comfort of their own secluded villas. Enjoy luscious lobster, tasty pho (noodle soup with chicken or beef) and other delectable local fare at open air dining eateries ‘By the Beach’ and ‘Vietnamese by the Market’. Or perhaps a candlelit dinner on the terrace of your villa.
The outstanding Six Senses Spa, set amid the backdrop of the Lo Voi Mountains and surrounded by tropical gardens, maintains a rotating roster of visiting therapist ‘Stars’ from their other locations. Holistic Asian treatments highlight natural local ingredients. Having been to many top spas around the globe, these exemplary practitioners are in a class by themselves. I had an excellent private yoga lesson with Kumar followed by a standout body treatment by visiting Master therapist extraordinaire Haris Boutzikoudis - a true healer. www.sixsenses.com/resorts/condao/destination
Six Senses Resort & Spa - Ninh Van Bay
A short flight from Saigon to seaside resort town Nha Trangm followed by a scenic 1-hour car ride along the beachy coastlinem and a 20 minute launch takes you to Con Dao’s sister property - Six Senses Resort & Spa/Ninh Van Bay. Set on a crescent shaped bay overlooking the East Vietnam Sea, it feels as if you’re on an island. Guests enjoy golden sand beaches, turquoise water and towering mountains. The more casual of the two properties, this is rustic luxury at its best, great for families, friends, and couples seeking to rejuvenate in between touring the country. Guests are provided with attentive butlers, an impressive perk. My butler, Neer, was always at the ready to fulfill my every wish and whim. Hiking and a variety of water sports including diving, kayaking, fishing and boating excursions are available - or you can simply lounge and kick back.
Ideal for sun lovers, beachfront pool villas have their own gardens, plunge pools and direct beach access. Snorkeling enthusiasts will love the water pool villas, built on the edge of the water with wooden steps leading to the sea, plus private decks for sunbathing and a plunge pool. While the isolated rock pool villas look great, they are difficult to get to, some requiring 100 + steep steps to climb, so I advise staying at the others.
Dine on organic produce, fresh seafood and regional specialties while looking out at the picturesque bay. Freshly caught fish was grilled to perfection and the sweet and sour fish soup was yummy. The superb Six Senses Spa showcases holistic treatments using indigenous products. I enjoyed a remarkable session with acclaimed practitioner Steve Harvey, one of Six Sense’s visiting Star Therapists. www.sixsenses.com/resorts/ninh-van-bay/destination
How To Fly: From the U.S. to Saigon, passengers have to connect in an Asian city. Cathay Pacific offers daily non-stop service to Hong Kong from New York (JFK), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and from March 1st 2014, New Jersey (EWR) connecting to their intra-Asia airline Dragonair. Business class offers the ultimate in comfort and amenities which make a huge difference on long flights. www.cathaypacific.com/us