Established by the French as a hill station in 1922, Sapa in Vietnam's northwest has in more recent times become known as a base for the hikers taking to the surrounding mountains. It's a dramatic landscape that attracts those hardy types, comprising steep rice paddies, cloud-enshrouded hilltops, verdant valleys, rushing rivers and traditional villages.
Now there's another drawcard, with the opening of Sapa's first international luxury hotel, MGallery Hotel de la Coupole. Designed with signature playful flair by the legendary Bill Bensley, the hotel references the French Indochine era in which Sapa was founded. Its burgeoning with steam trunks, haberdashery, millinery, tailoring and couture references in a colourful and theatrical aesthetic. There are 249 rooms across six types, many with Sapa valley and mountain views.
The all-day dining restaurant Chic, is a grand French restaurant featuring a fireplace and a serious French wine list. The Absinthe lounge offers high tea, tapas, desserts, wines and locally-inspired cocktails while Cacao is a cafe serving freshly baked breads, handmade macaroons and specialty coffees, teas and smoothies.
Meanwhile, the indoor pool is nothing short of palatial. Featuring double-storey tropical curtain drops, ornate tiling and iron work, a fountain and Juliet balconies overlooking the scene, it's appropriately called La Grand Bassin.
Accompanying it is a fitness centre, NUAGE spa and a kids club. Nearby, are Sapa's markets a well-regarded source for ethnic crafts and souvenirs, and the Fansipan cable car, giving non-hikers access to breathtaking views without pulling on the boots.
Opening rates give a Classic Room with breakfast and a cable car ride for two at $223 ($US162) a room. See accor.com