Luxury tourism returns to northern Vietnam peaks

By Phat Dat   March 25, 2019 | 11:00 pm PT
A stunning new international five-star property designed by Bill Bensley has significantly upped the ante for luxury tourism in Sa Pa.

A century ago Sa Pa was a hill station for the French military and a summer retreat for upper echelons of society seeking to escape the tropical heat of Hanoi.

A gateway to a heavenly mountainous realm, Sa Pa was the ultimate antidote for ailing or fatigued emigres.To accommodate the growing number of tourists in the 1920s and 1930s, a large number of stunning villas and high-end hotels were built.

Soon Sa Pa became a luxury tourism destination, one of the most famous in all of Indochina.

However, the town fell into a state of neglect as Vietnam waged an independence struggle that lasted decades. In the 1950s, the town was bombed by its own creators, the French, and thereafter, it drifted into virtual oblivion for nearly 40 years.

Sa Pa began coming out of its shell in the early 1990s, when young backpackers and intrepid travellers started to arrive for the same reasons French tourists once did.

Rice terraces landscape from Sa Pa.

Rice terraces landscape from Sa Pa.

High up in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, Sa Pa possesses a magical, fairytale feel, with stunning natural beauty that survived war and neglect.

Word of its incredible beauty spread through the turn of the 21st century and tourism grew, slowly and steadily. However, in spite of its history as a summer retreat for the French elite, Sa Pa was not seen as a destination where luxury tourism would once again flourish as it did in its heyday.

In fact, until very recently, developers of luxury projects looked to famous beach destinations such as Phu Quoc, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Mui Ne to develop five-star hotels and resorts.

Sa Pa had many guesthouses and budget hotels, and a small number of three- and four-star hotels, but was not on anyone’s map for luxury tourism.

However, that all changed last December when a stunning five-star accommodation, Hotel De la Coupole, MGallery by Sofitel opened its doors.

Hotel de la Coupole is the first international first five-star hotel debuted in Sa Pa town.

Hotel de la Coupole is the first international first five-star hotel debuted in Sa Pa town.

Paying homage to classical French architecture, haute couture and the vibrant colors of the northwestern hill tribes, designer Bill Bensley and Sun Group, Vietnam’s premier developer of high-end tourism resorts and entertainment complexes, have created an outstanding architectural work that will be talked out for years to come.

As an evocative throwback to the old hill station’s glory days in the 1920s and 1930s, one can imagine literary figures such as the Great Gatsby or Hercules Poirot swanning around Hotel De la Coupole - MGallery by Sofitel while sojourning in Sa Pa. They would surely appreciate the top-notch service and immaculate attention to detail.

Like other premier luxury hotels in the world, guests arriving at the Hotel De la Coupole, MGallery by Sofitel will be impressed by the air of grandeur and glamor that it exudes, recalling the spirit of a bygone era, artfully recreated by a range of antiques and ethnic motifs embedded in its interiors.

Bensley has delivered a masterclass in visual storytelling in almost every nook and corner of the hotel, be it in the elegant pieces of European furniture alongside tribal paintings or the craft items and artworks. Each and every corner has its own story to tell.

Whether guests dine at Chic, the hotel’s outstanding restaurant,or enjoy coffee and decadent chocolate desserts at Caco, or perhaps relax by the sumptuous indoor pool Le Grand Bassin, they will revel in the rich, evocative and multilayered details that all combine to make this an outstanding accommodation.

Every corner of the hotel has an mix of French haute couture and Vietnamese hilltribestyles.

Every corner of the hotel has an mix of French haute couture and Vietnamese hilltribestyles.

Since the hotel is located in the center of Sa Pa, guests can wander down to the Stone Church, explore the night market or simply enjoy the wild beautyand the cool, crisp and rejuvenating mountain air.

It is no wonder that a century ago the first tourists who travelled here were besotted by Sa Pa. Now, 100 years later, we can see its beauty is not old, and a luxury resort now matches the timeless beauty and grandeur of this enchanting town.

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