Leave it to Bill Bensley—the Bangkok-based architect and designer behind some of the most imaginative hotels in Southeast Asia—to bring a dose of much-needed razzmatazz to the highlands of northern Vietnam. Resplendent with domes, rooftop pavilions, and wrought-iron railings, Hôtel de la Coupole (part of Sofitel’s MGallery collection) is an ode both to Indochine-era haute couture and the colorful textiles of the ethnic minorities—Hmong, Red Dao, and others—who inhabit the misty countryside around Sa Pa, a former French hill station. Bensley’s signature whimsical-maximalist style is everywhere, from the grandly glamorous lobby with its plush velvet banquettes and red silk chandeliers, to Le Grand Bassin, an art nouveau–inspired indoor swimming pool complete with green marble pillars, mosaic tiles, and bronze statuary. All told, there are more than 1,000 pieces of original art and antiques (most collected by Bensley at Parisian flea markets) scattered throughout the 249-room property. Considerable attention has also gone into the menu at Chic, the rooftop dining room, where sweeping mountain views are matched by classically plated French-Vietnamese dishes such as Sa Pa trout meunièreand Hmong-style air-dried beef with mango salad. For a change of perspective, the hotel also shares space with a little train station where guests can hop aboard an old-fashioned carriage forthe two-kilometer ride up to the cable car on Mount Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak.
—84-21/4362-9999; hoteldelacoupole.com; doubles from US$108