Top of many a bucket list and quite rightly so, Vietnam has long been held in popular imagination with a sense of curiosity, excitement, and trepidation. This serpent-shaped country on the very edge of mainland Asia and lapped by the South China Sea has open doors and a friendly warmth which keeps visitors returning.
Vietnam is a country of extraordinary extremes and distinctive experiences, from kayaking in Ha Long Bay, marvelling at the 14th Century Cham ruins at My Son and exploring ornate temples, to relaxing on pristine beaches, exploring the ancient cobblestone streets of Hoi An and strolling by the modern buildings of Ho Chi Minh City. This is a land filled with rugged mountains, lush forests, dense jungles and verdant rice paddies dotted with bicycle-thronged cities and peaceful, rustic villages. Whether touring this fascinating country or simply enjoying the sunshine and beaches, Vietnam will not disappoint.
We highlight a twin centre in two of the most colourful and cultural spots in the country, Hanoi and Hoi An, with an otherworldly cruise along iconic Halong Bay tied in. Located on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is one of the most ancient capital’s in the world. Staying at the 4 Star Lapis Hotel in the French Quarter, you will be ideally located for exploring all the city has to offer. Sample the local street food and cast your eyes upon awe-inspiring architecture and temples. Visit the lively markets in the Old Quarter, which is around a 25 minute scenic walk from the hotel, taking in picture perfect Hoan Kiem Lake on the way.
Cruise Vietnam’s most spectacular waterway, Halong Bay, known for it’s towering limestone isles, karsts and emerald green waters. Enjoy a seafood lunch whilst the on-board staff tend to your every need. This full day adventure will take you through this otherworldly UNESCO World Heritage Site, as you discover secret lagoons, caves and islands in total comfort.
Having enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, you will then venture onto the calming coastal retreat of Victoria Hoi Ann Beach Resort & Spa. Hoi An is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a beautifully preserved traditional trading port. Explore your surroundings by foot, bike or even sidecar, taking in the lush countryside and vibrant streets, watching the locals go about their business. The resort is the perfect place to relax after a busy day, where you can enjoy a cocktail by the swimming pool that overlooks the ocean or spend time in the indulgent spa.
Located just over 500 yards from Hanoi Opera House, The Lapis Hotel is centrally located in Hanoi’s historic French Quarter. The hotel offers 70 rooms and suites with traditional style décor, marble-clad bathrooms and views of the city beyond. Highlights include a rooftop infinity pool, a restaurant, a bar and a fitness room. Enter through an impressive lobby area showcasing Hanoi artefacts and sumptuous seating, and be sure to make reservations for dinner in Gambetta Restaurant. In the morning, explore the Hang Da markets followed by a stroll alongside the Red River. The hotel is approximately 40 minutes from Noi Bai International Airport.
Ensconced between the Thu Bon River and the South China Sea, Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa exudes an essence of French, Japanese and Vietnamese elements overlooking Cua Dai Beach. Resembling a traditional fishing village, the resort is home to 109 Vietnamese-styled rooms, L’Annam Restaurant, kids club, a spectacular beachside pool and three bars. Don’t miss the complimentary vintage sidecar transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An. The resort offers a wealth of activities including petanque, Tai Chi and cycling. Savour a relaxing treatment in the Victoria Spa. Da Nang Airport is approximately 30 minutes away.
Not surprisingly, the Kingdom of Thailand is the most visited country in southeast Asia. The land of a thousand smiles is friendly and fun loving and offers a breath-taking range of scenery – from the jungle forested hills in the north to the unbelievably clear and warm waters of the Andaman Sea off the west coast.
With its eclectic mix of culture, cuisine and commerce, most visitors spend time in Bangkok, before going up country to the jungle or heading for the islands and beaches. Serene Buddhist temples, golden royal palaces, buzzing street markets, glitzy shopping centres, gleaming hotels and colonial edifices all jostle for space in what is one of Asia’s largest cities.
The same vibrant mix of sights, sounds, scents, spirituality and cultures can be found in many other cities and resorts throughout the country – so dive in and discover what makes Thailand such an amazing holiday destination!
We have highlighted Elephant Hills because it offers guests not only unique lodgings in luxury tented accommodation, but also the opportunity for an ethical elephant experience. Particularly popular with couples and families, your adventure will take you through Khao Sok National Park, a nature reserve brimming with dense jungle, rare wildlife and limestone karst formations.
On your jungle tour, you will be able to interact with the elephants as you feed and wash these magnificent mammals in their natural habitats. This immersive experience also includes a canoe safari down the Sok River, a trip to a rural market, sightseeing on a traditional long tail boat Cheow Lan Lake and a trek through the jungle. All meals are included, along with dance performances and cooking demonstrations. You will also have free time to take out canoes to explore the area at your own pace.
To ensure you arrive and leave Thailand well rested, we suggest you stay for 5 nights before and after your Elephant Hills adventure at the 5 Star Kalima Resort & Villas Khao Lak in a Deluxe Room. This luxury resort is a true hidden gem, located in a secluded setting surrounded by mangrove forests and river estuaries. Dine in the plush pavilion that overlooks the glittering pool, where you can choose from a range of dishes from Asian favourites to European fusion. Be sure to take time out in the Lamoon Spa, where you can indulge in a traditional Thai massage or aromatherapy treatment.
Floating just off the southern coast of India, Sri Lanka is a country of diverse beauty, nicknamed the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Discover hundreds of cultural sights (including eight World Heritage sites), an abundance of wildlife, colonial architecture, cascading waterfalls, golden beaches, misty mountain tops, enchanting valleys, lush tea plantations, tropical rain forests and charming hospitality from the locals. Whether relaxing on beautiful beaches or discovering the island’s colourful heritage, Sri Lanka offers incredible choices that deliver the perfect holiday.
We feature the 5 Star Anantara Kalutara Resort which is set on the secluded shores of Sri Lanka’s stunning southwest coast. Guests staying here can enjoy 360 degree views of the beautiful ocean and lagoon. The property stands out among the rest with it’s unique architecture inspired by Geoffrey Bawa and modern interiors throughout.
Expect contemporary and elegant design throughout it’s 141 rooms, suites and pool villas. You can also enjoy meals served by your pool from your own kitchenette, spend some romantic time together in an oversized tub with the stunning night sky above or even a enjoy a romantic meal on the beach.
Images courtesy of If Only Holidays