Travel Destination: Maldives, Vietnam with Susie Boswell

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The banyan tree, the remarkable wide-canopied giant tropical fig, is a talisman among traditional cultures, Hindus, Buddhists and Australia’s Aborigines among them. It’s also the Banyan Tree Group’s shelter-amid-nature motif for its interest in some 30 hotels and resorts in superb tropical locations. All are exclusive (for average folk, read “exxy”) but with the Aussie dollar’s big buying power the time has never been better to experience some of this luxury, if only for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, special occasion, or – if giving to loved ones gives you pleasure as it does me – perhaps as the gift of a honeymoon for newlyweds. Currently, Banyan Tree has marked two of its resorts for special offers: one newly refurbished in the glorious Maldives, the other an entirely new property in Vietnam.

The Maldives’ Vabbinfaru reopened last month after adding plunge and jet pools to the private gardens of all 48 villas. Believe me, there’s no sand finer and whiter, no water more translucent, than the Maldives’. Lagoon snorkelling right off the beach among fish, rays and turtles is incomparable. Vabbinfaru is 20min by speedboat (the usual means of transfer to the Maldives’ individual island resorts) from Male’s international airport. Changi, Singapore, is the gateway, four hours away by air, so the overall flying time from home isn’t tiring. The cuisine’s superb. Dine on international fare at the beachfront restaurant after cocktails at the alfresco bar. Fresh lobster’s on the menu at elite Shark Point dining, also on the beach. “No shoes” is the way of life at Maldives resorts and guests can wiggle their toes in the sand at the weekly beach barbecue. Or enjoy “sandbank dining”: travel by speedboat to a private sandbank where a butler serves breakfast, a picnic or dinner and then vanishes while you dine mid-Indian Ocean, not a soul around. There’s also an evening jetty experience: “Bedouin style”, with champagne, canapes and the awesome tropical sunset. Spa experiences are equally sensational. Check Vabbinfaru on the website image gallery. If you’re quick, book a minimum two nights by October 25 for stays till October 31 for complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner daily for two, daily one-hour spa massage plus half-hour refreshments/relaxation for two, and an “Intimate Moments” experience with wine, scented oils and candles set around a pool.

Closer to home, Banyan Tree Lang Co opens in Vietnam on November 1, with 49 new pool villas adjacent to Laguna Lang Co and its array of dining options, luxury spa facilities and championship golf. Designed for absolute privacy, the new enclave’s nestled on a 3km beach on the central coast, renowned for pristine waters, tropical jungle and rugged peaks, close to the city of Hue. It’s under an hour’s drive from Da Nang airport, in turn just over an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Referencing the region’s traditional architecture, resort buildings boast clay-tile roofs, open courtyards and bamboo, wicker, and raffia (palm) to blend with the lush surrounding forest. Dining includes Thai cuisine and Viet-influenced French specialties, indoors and alfresco. For extra special intimate dinners there’s Saffron restaurant, on a hilltop overlooking the sea. Azura, on the beachfront, serves Italian fare and fresh local seafood. There’s also a sophisticated all-day snack menu venue. There’s also sensory spa treatments, water sports, a fitness centre and yoga classes as well as the Nick Faldo golf course suitable for skilled and novice players. The site’s rugged terrain has been preserved, framed by mountains, the East Sea, soaring trees, streams, rice paddies and dramatic rock features. Taxman funding your “conference”? A handsome boardroom is suited to small meetings! To celebrate next month’s opening, a promotional package starts at USD735 a night for a minimum two-night stay. Book two nights from November 1 to March 31 next for USD735 complimentary hotel credits per stay, tenable for dining, spa and retail gallery. Guests for three consecutive nights get the credit plus private round-trip transfers.

Start at www.banyantree.com

This story was published in issue 83 Port Macquarie

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