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Mice Asia Net : October 2008
vietnam and cambodia where we dined under a full moon in a garden artfully lit. The menu didn’t quite match the location, though. Then it was onto Central Vietnam and the historic towns of Da Nang and Hoi An. This is going to be a hot new destination as a swag of resorts are under construction along the famous China Beach. We visit the new Nam Hai, an uber luxury resort, said to be the best in Vietnam. Little has been spared and the $500++ per night accommodation actually looks good value compared to the best Australia has to offer. It’s only suitable for smaller meetings in the 50-60 guest range. It’s operated by the same company who have the Datai in Langkawi. The Furama Resort in Da Nang is right next to the vast former American military base and is a well-run property, with plenty of incentive group experience. The outdoor dinner closes with a roll of traditional drums and a spotlight picking up a line of some 20 young girls on the beach in their traditional Ai Do silken pyjamas with conical hats and our desserts secreted in their rice baskets. It’s a simple, yet knockout effect. The hour-long cycle through the countryside at Hoi An was one of the highlights of the week. We took an easy ride along the rice paddies where water buffalo continue to plough the land the way they have for centuries; duck farmers tend their charges and the rhythms of the Asian countryside can really be felt. Hoi An is a World Heritage-protected town of some 80,000, with the old part with its shop-houses, restaurants and temples almost entirely given over to tourism. It’s a photographer’s heaven. It’s being smartened up steadily, but still has a measure of grottyness that keeps it from becoming too cute. Brother’s Cafe restaurant which is located on the river, is the natural choice for a group dinner and was arguably the best food we had in Vietnam. In Hanoi, InterContinental Hotels has recently located its flagship Vietnam property right on West Lake, a large lagoon just minutes from downtown. The hotel is entirely built over the lake, and a series of pavilions give the sense one is in an urban resort. Hanoi can be stiflingly hot in summer, but the breezes off the lake provide very pleasant relief. It has a small dedicated conference centre, a spa is on the way, and the fitness centre is so state-of-the-art that it has ipod connections on the treadmills. The club lounge is one of the best equipped I’ve encountered and is conveniently divided into discreet areas, separating the dining from the business and relaxation areas. A modern historical footnote is that West Lake is where US Senator John McCain was shot down and taken prisoner during an air raid on Hanoi’s water supply works in 1967. We explored and dined at several Hanoi restaurants, with Wild Lotus and Jimmy Chinn’s being the standouts. Hanoi is limited for offsite venues for groups over, say 250, but Jimmy Chinn, which is in the Old Quarter across the road from a beautiful lake, would be ideal for the after-function party. The Old Quarter in Hanoi has to be one of the most intense shopping areas on the planet! It’s a constant bustle of hooting and tooting mopeds, street touts and shops offering just about everything. Life is lived on the street; the “aromas” can be pungent, but it’s a good humoured world and you have no choice but to go with the flow. Prices are good and the haggling isn’t too fierce. For those who’d rather insert bamboo needles under their fingernails than endure Vietnamese retail (present company included), there are any number of well air-conditioned bars to be discovered. Moon River is a restaurant and function centre located on Hanoi’s majestic Red River and is a perfect location for a traditional Vietnamese dinner and cultural show. It’s probably best experienced after dark and a line of candles and torches leads ABOVE: The InterContinental Hotel in Hanoi comprises a series of pavilions set over Hanoi’s West Lake, creating a resort-like atmosphere just minutes from the heart of the city. Photograph by Miles Clarke. miceAsia.net 27