For more than a decade, Vietnam has been a top Asian destination for its history, beaches, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. Stops on the luxury tour have traditionally included Hanoi, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Hoi An, and Nha Trang. Now there are many new options off the well-trod path.
Six Senses led the alternative way in 2011 by opening Six Senses Con Dao (rooms from $595; Con Son Island; 855-695-6693; sixsenses.com), a beachfront property in an archipelago of 16 islands in Southeast Vietnam, a 45-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh. Aman followed suit two years later with Amanoi (rooms from $650; Vinh Hy Village; 800-477-9180; aman.com), in Nui Chua National Park, outside Nha Trang. Both hotels offer plenty of recreation, as does 2012’s InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort (rooms from $450; Bai Bac, Son Tra Peninsula; 84-511/393-8888; ihg.com), designed by Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley; a hike down Son Tra Mountain National Park, outside Da Nang City, ends at the property’s entrance.
Meanwhile, Mekong River cruising has taken off. The 20-room Aqua Mekong (rooms from $3,660; aquaexpeditions.com) opened up the river villages and floating markets, and the new Mekong Princess (rooms from $4,000; haimarktravel.com) is the only luxury boat on the Lower Mekong, covering Can Tho City and its surrounding area.
Vietnam’s urban centers keep getting better, too. In addition to the June reopening of the Park Hyatt Saigon (rooms from $310; 2 Lam Son Square, District 1; 84-8/3824-1234; saigon.park.hyatt.com), the Reverie Saigon (rooms from $350; 22–36 Nguyen Hue Blvd.; 84-8/3823-6688; thereveriesaigon.com), which debuted last September, is changing Ho Chi Minh’s hotel landscape. The big cities are becoming increasingly global, as evidenced by the fact that the food scene is offering more than spring rolls and pho. There is amazing pizza at Ho Chi Minh’s and Hanoi’s Pizza 4P’s (pizza4ps.com). And motorcycle tours are now better than Vespa tours. It’s another mark of how far the country has come: from foot, to bikes, to scooters, to cars, and back to motorcycles, for fun, not just for function.
Cathay Pacific is a good option for travelers flying from the United States to Asia. The Hong Kong–based airline is known for having comfortable seats across all classes, from its first class cabins with fully flat beds (and up to 87 inches of legroom on its long-haul Boeing 747s) to its premium economy with eight inches of seat recline and dedicated check-in counters. The airline also has universally praised meals, thanks to the rice cookers, toasters, and skillets on board. (And 2015 even saw the airline partnering with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s chefs to craft first class menus.) Meanwhile, it’s one of the few Asian airlines with U.S.-based flight attendants: In 2006, the company announced it was hiring a cabin crew out of San Francisco to service flights between the city and Hong Kong. The airline has long been known for its excellent lounges at Hong Kong International airport, but last summer it upped its game with its chic, new The Pier lounge—just one piece of a larger brand initiative dedicated to giving guests a contemporary Asian experience. cathaypacific.com.