From Asian Crowd to Still Secluded Destinations

At the end of April I finally ticked another bucket list item of my list for Asia – Vietnam with a 3night stay on Song Saa Island Cambodia thrown in and a stop in Hong Kong on the way home to check out the newest hotels and latest hotel renovations.

My friend Margie and I flew on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong on an A350 in economy class. The plane was 1/3 to half empty; the service fine as you´d expect from Cathay and the food was surprisingly tasty. I hate plane food and I hadn’t flown long haul economy for nearly 10years! However, the overall vibe,  standard and look of the crew was definitely a lot lower than what I have been used to in the past. The flight was on time, the plane looked very new and in good condition so all that was fine. The flight from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh was on a brand-new plane. The crew was a little bit invisible for a two-hour 40 minute flight and that flight was pretty full.



In Ho Chi Minh City, I had booked the design hotel called Bach Suites which is a 37 room/suite property which has a lot of charm, a very cosy kind of dining room with an attached colonial style kitchen where breakfast is being served but it has no real operating restaurant. It didn’t bother us as we had all out dinners booked at outside restaurants.

After a good night’s sleep and a wholesome breakfast we were picked up by our guides on Vespa’s for our day of touring HCM and it was a great way to see the city and feel a bit of a breeze which was a very hot weekend in HCM. We stopped at all the main temples, drove past rich and poor areas, historic sights and learnt a great deal.

That evening we had booked a place by the river called “The Deck” which had an amazing set up and atmosphere with a beautiful menu and cocktail list and it´s definitely a place to go if you want to be cool in HCM.

On day 2 we were collected early and had a trip by boat booked to see the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. Although I knew a fair bit about the Vietnam War as we call it (the Vietnamese call it the Viet-America war), I was amazed by the cleverness and genius ideas of the Viet Kongs on how to trick the US soldiers and lead them away from where they actually were. Some traps were cruel to say the least, but everything was so basic yet to effective and clever. The tunnels are not for the faint hearted and in the heat we experienced (38degrees and 100% humidity) I was not keen to proof anything as they were not built for western sizes!!?

That evening after a dip in our rooftop pool and a good cold shower we went for another amazing dinner to a restaurant called East by HGO Than Hoa.

This was a restaurant opened by one of the first Vietnam Masterchef winners and it was well worth it and a truly great culinary experience.


Unfortunately due to time constraint we had only 2 full days and 3 nights in most places. So next stop was Sihanoukville where we were greeted and dropped off at the new Novotel in town that was by far the best Novotel I have ever seen and we were able to use their pool facilities until our boat departure to Song Saa Island Resort.



Song Saa is located  on the island of Koh Ouen and is really a paradise away from it all! When it is hard to find a place that feels remote and private and is not crazy expensive then Song Saa is it. I call it ¨rustic barefoot luxury¨.

With 6 x 1bed jungle and two x 2bed villas half sunset and half sunrise In elevated location, as well as 3x 2bed villa overwater and 6x 1bed ocean view sunrise villas, there is something for everyone. The two bedroom overwater villas have been designed with every detail in mind and feel like a fantastic beach house.

The service is so hospitable and whilst language barriers can sometimes cause a little misunderstanding here and there the service is overall really wonderful. The staff takes so much pride in what they represent and they have been led by a wonderful General Manager, Fraser Donald Wong, who was in fact voted the friendliest GM in the world!! He had a great career and knows how to train staff to just be that little step ahead… anyway, he also started a number of sustainability projects on the island, including a project where every staff member has to make a piece of clothing out of recyclable material; one of the staff surfaced with such a talent he is now being asked to show his pieces at a Catwalk event of one of the top designers of Cambodia!!


It was hard to leave paradise back to civilisations in Hoi An. We flew via Siem Reap to Danang and then had our transfer to Four Seasons Nam Hai.

Now, don’t get me wrong it has been the top resort in Hoi An forever and long before Four Seasons took it over. And the service is overall pretty impeccable especially at the breakfast restaurant! BUT it does feel like a large resort and does not compare to the authenticity of Song Saa… and if you eat there your checkout bill will give you a heart attack!! I had great expectations given I booked it for 20 years and I had never been. But to be completely honest, I was a little disappointed.
Despite the mostly wonderful service, the resort itself left me unimpressed. Maybe I’m just spoilt coming from Song Saa!

I inspected Anantara Hoi An that is right in town walking distance to everything and that is a big plus, but in standard a huge step down from Four Season.

I liked Hoi AN town and its flair and charm and we had some awesome next night because the cocktails and ambience were so great and we would never have found those!!! Our guide though was sooo knowledgeable and again gave us a fab history lesson.

It just proves no matter what you think you can do yourself, a guide can ALWAYS enhance your experience and knowledge!!!



Despite giving ourselves three full days here as I wanted to get some outfits replicated and did successfully, our departure by train to Quy Nhon was imminent.

But not just any regular Vietnamese train…no we were in the VIP carriage at the end of the train by ANANTARA called “The Vietage” that is like a mini version of a Orient Express Train. You get a small intimate cabin with a gift, a three course lunch with any drinks throughout the journey, 15min neck massage and air-conditioning which is priceless during summer! Highly recommend!!

We then stayed at Anantara Quy Nhon which is a very boutique 25 villa property adjacent to its sister property but oh so private. Every villa has its own private pool and we were right on the beach with just a few local fishing boats!! Another place away from the crowds!! There were only three other couples at the resort apart from us!!

The Spa at the resort and he product they use are really impressive! There were hardly any tourists here and if you think how crowded so many beach resorts in Asia including Vietnam can be these days, this was a complete surprise and glad we found a hidden little gem.

There is not much to do here, but if you want to drop and flop and enjoy a nice villa with private pool at a reasonable price on a nice stretch of beach and with a local fishing village in walking distance, this could be a lovely spot to spend your beach time in Vietnam as part of a Vietnam trip.

From here a direct flight with VietJet took us to Hanoi for out last stop in Vietnam.



I loved Hanoi a lot more than Ho Chi Minh as the old French Quarter is so walkable and a fantastic area to explore little alleyways and lots of street food and has a real vibe. Again we had a great guide and spent a fabulous evening with him trying out lots of different dishes in about 5 venues, visiting a local family who lives in the old quarter and is regarded to be well off to have a house here though nothing compared to how we live!! Their kitchen was still like a basic make up kitchen in a an entrance way in the corner and underneath the staircase. I do think these guys do an excellent job and we would never have had the same experience had we not booked a guide for the nights both in Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An and here in Hanoi.

We stayed at the new Capella, an amazing neo classical hotel that feels like luxury the minute you walk in. Situated on the edge of the Old Quarter and right opposite the iconic Sofitel Metropole, it does pose a huge competition for the Sofitel as the rooms are brand new and truly immaculately designed and the bathrooms are quite a feast for the eyes. I did have a look at the Sofitel and whilst the rooms are well maintained and been renovated over the pandemic, it is a complete different style and still has a little bit of an older style feel. But having said then everyone’s taste is different and the eclectic and colourful design of the Capella may be a bit much for some and they prefer the more neutral colour tones and not busy wall paper of the Sofitel. I really loved the Capella though.

Hoi An


Last stop was HKG and since I had not been since 2015 I was keen to see what the city vibe was and see some of the more recent hotel additions I had not been able to see or existed at my last visit.

I stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel and the Upper House, bit a long time favourite for HKG options for me. FS because of location and having the best hotel pool in HKG with a great view and the Upper House because of its location next to Pacific Place and close to the tram up to the peak as well as the large studios and impeccable design of them including the bathrooms that are so well thought out and the shower offers you a view of the mountains or harbour.

But during our short stay, I managed to visit the Ritz Carlton, the newest kid on the block and tallest Hotel with the tallest Hotel Bar with outdoor terrasse and swimming pool in the world I was told and the views are priceless!!!The Rooms and Suites are also incredible generous and well designed and appealing and having some of the major banks on the bottom of the building and the airport train stop underneath makes it very popular for the corporate traveller and the leisure traveller alike. The location is a bit more isolated but the HLG government is currently building a whole new museum precinct around the hotel.

The other Hotel was the Rosewood Hotel that has a prime location on the waterfront of Kowloon and is a mere 10minute walk from the ferry and adjacent to a new shopping centre. But that was not the attraction for me, it was the design of the hotel!! It really has a warmth as soon as you exit the lift on any floor it has a homeliness rather than a hotel feel and the rooms and Suites are just stunning and really a perfect home away from home. Add this to the one of the most popular bars in town, a unique café and two Michelin star restaurants that have been carefully concepted and have waitlists to get in, your stay is sure to impress and you don’t want to leave!

As always with my affiliation with Smartflyer, I can VIP you and enhance your stay at any of these properties. But also help you create a wonderful and smooth holiday to suit your taste and budget.

Upper House
Rosewood HK

Ariana Wong Travel is an Independent Affiliate of SmartFlyer – a member of Virtuoso, Preferred Hotel Group, Leading Hotels of the World