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Hanoi vintage, SCUBA dives in Jakarta, hotel insights...

Capella launches in sleepy Hanoi with more bells and whistles than you could shake a stick at; medical tourism in Phuket with a relaxing twist; and Hong Kong deals.

Bill Bensley's Capella Hanoi offers lush surrounds for history and opera buffs

Hanoi opera comes to the bedroom


A stone's throw from the historic Opera House and its selfie-throngs and wedding parties dressed to the hilt in lace and finery, the all new 47-room Capella Hanoi (January 2021, www.capellahotels.com) is a Bill Bensley designed throwback in an "une petite auberge" mould saluting a nostalgic time of operatic enjoyment and refinement. Yet this is anything but a casual small inn. Capella Hanoi is a magnificent and sumptuous construct, from its curving white exterior with balconies to the spacious interiors and vast suites from 59sq m to 194sq m kitted out with generous daubs of red velvet, marble, cobalt blues and irridescent greens facing neat black-trim windows welcoming of light. Think vintage decor, tasselled silk lampshades, recessed paintings, spoiling bathrooms and a delicious Auriga Spa for apres-pho. Also expect special aromatic coffees, Bluetooth speakers, complimentary bar (non-alcoholic), and online newspapers and magazines. There is a gym for the fitness inclined (though we caution Hanoi is very much a walking city) and an indoor pool with sauna. Unwind in the Living Room with its selection of old literature and recipes dug up from the 1920s. If you have the money and the moxie try a 'Capella Calling' launch package priced at US$555 per night (first two nights) and US$355 thereafter with breakfast, a US$100 food credit, one way transfer to the hotel, and masterclass attendance for cultural insights.


Alma Resort (above right, www.alma-resort.com/) at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, has decided to up the tempo at this smart seaside getaway with singalong karaoke for foot-stomping musicals like La La Land, Yesterday, and A Star is Born. The hotel's Singalong Karaoke runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday so brush up on your shower crooning and head to Vietnam as soon as you can for a live session with other wannabes.

Giovanni AngeliniFrom veteran hotelier Giovanni Angelini, former CEO of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts an insightful guide with rich shared experience for hoteliers, owners, investors and executives, 'Winning Hospitality'. The easy-to-read 460-page tome is divided into short quickly digestible chapters on brand, competition, excellence, service and even bellhop gossip. The author writes with modesty about a broad range of topics with endearing insights that focus on the fact that customers want more than the basics. "Meeting expectations by offering a good product is not enough... they are looking for something that will enrich their lives." As Angelini puts it, "Ultimately it's the customer experience that matters." Even when dealing with "the oldest profession in the world" and night-time partners that turn up unnanounced. It is often "the most delicate function for hotel employees to manage." The book is available on Amazon.

At the stately Mandarin Oriental Jakarta (above left, www.mandarinoriental.com/jakarta/), city stays with a difference. Why not take the chance to learn or improve your SCUBA diving skills? The hotel's 'Dive into the Weekend' package serves up a few options including a pool submersion for beginners (eight years and above) with a minimum two-night stay in a Deluxe over the weekend at Rp2,550,000 per night, and an open ocean experience at Thousand Islands in Jakarta Bay (for up to five persons aged over 18) from Rp8,130,000 per night. Expect breakfast and a private boat. Well, this surely beats the city's traffic.


Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa in Phang Nga

Medical deal for hipsters in Phuket


Hotels too are once again flirting with medical tourism packages. In partnership with Thonburi Hospital, Akaryn group (which runs a string of homey hotels in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand under the Aleenta name) is offering those who can’t wait till hospitals free up in their home countries to "do knee and hip surgery and recover in style in the lap of luxury with Aleenta’s world famous pampering and care," livewire group head Anchalika Kijkanakorn told Smart Travel Asia in March 2021 as the Covid-19 crisis continued. The group also offer a ' Breathing Recovery & Immunity Boosting Retreat' to get you ready for the "brave new world where Covid is a thing you have to live with." All this is being offered under the Ayurah Wellness Centre (www.aleenta.com/phuket) at the Phuket property. "The surgery involves a four to seven-day stay at the hospital, then 15 more days at Aleenta for rehabilitation under the care of our physiotherapist, nutritionist, and nurse on duty with follow up visits with doctor before returning home." The package runs from Bt750,000 for 37 days, inclusive of doctor, nurses, specialists, meals, and on site medication.

Mandarin Oriental Jakarta Hotel Alexandra opens in Hong Kong March 2021

Replacing the laundered white cubist villas of Princess D’Annam Resort & Spa is the spoiling new Azerai Ke Ga Bay (above right, opened November 2020, azerai.com/resorts), an intimate, elegant, upscale retreat a four-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City, with four swimming pools and a seafront spa with 10 treatment rooms. Occuping a premium stretch of clean white sand, this 46-key hideaway is the third property under Azerai Resorts, the brainchild of veteran hotelier Adrian Zecha who in 1988 authored the brilliant Aman vision.

Mastering Hospitality, a new book by veteran hotelier Dr Iwan DietschiFrom luxury hotel veteran Dr Iwan Dietschi (GM The Ritz-Carlton Shenzhen), a March launch for his new book Mastering Hospitality - a Luxury Hotelier's Guide to Career and Leadership Success - directed at aspiring professionals in search of elusive insights into the esoteric art of great hospitality. Dietschi's aim is for younger entrants to "achieve their fullest potential" at a time when perhaps the industry is moving into a more automated impersonal era. The book is available on Amazon and more information is available here. Dr Dietschi in a detailed and candid interview with us earlier revealed his initial passion was for music and he took up the trumpet. Says this dapper GM, "The basics of hotels have never changed. It is a people business. You are a host first and foremost...You have to touch hearts." It is the essence of luxury.

At the Taj Chia Kutir Resort & Spa, Darjeeling (above left, www.tajhotels.com) enjoy grand views of the Eastern Indian Himalaya and sip the finest teas savouring a break in the clean hill air. Set in a scenic and fully functioning tea estate in Kurseong dating back to 1959, the resort is at a height of 6,700ft. The 72 rooms and suites serve up woody interiors with ample space, four-poster beds, and quite a few balconies. Expect a high end spa with Jacuzzi, a temperature controlled swimming pool, a hairdressing salon for men and women, sauna, fitness centre, babysitter service, walking trails, and meeting facilities.

Taj Chia Kutir Resort & Spa, Darjeeling Azerai Ke Ga Bay, arrived in Vietnam November 2020

Hurry to get booked at The Hari Hong Kong (www.thehari.com, above left) that arrived at a canter on 12 December 2020 to naughtily ruffle the sombre hotel scene with an upscale Wanchai retreat that came on the heels of The Hari London. Located on Lockhart Road in the hustle and bustle of one of the Island's oldest districts - known for its entertainment, food, and bars - The Hari with 210 keys (including three rooftop suites) is for "for discerning travellers who want to do more than scratch the surface of the city," says flamboyant founder Dr Aron Harilela. In September 2020 the storied and popular FCC Angkor by Avani (www.avanihotels.com/, above right), reopened with a special deal including room upgrades, breakfast and some dining at US$99 per night for a couple. The FCC permits early check-in by 10am and late checkout at 4pm.

The Hari comes to Hong Kong FCC Angkor - Avani reopened Septemberr 2020

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