Soon after the turn of the 20th century, Sapa — a verdant Vietnamese mountain town known for its terraced rice fields — became a stylish retreat for French colonials who would take the train from Hanoi for visits to their country villas and to a now-defunct sanitarium.
Today, travelers come to hike the misty trails linking Sapa to surrounding stopped-in-time villages such as Ta Phin and Cat Cat, whose residents sell handmade brocades and silver jewelry. For the new 249-key Hôtel de la Coupole, set in a mustard-yellow building in Sapa’s Muong Hoa Valley, the Bangkok-based architect and designer Bill Bensley was interested in how, a hundred years ago, these types of artisanal goods made their way to Paris and ended up influencing Western fashions. “I found a 1920s haute couture hat in Paris, which was basically a Vietnamese rattan hat covered in white and red polka dots, and decided to do the entire hotel like that,” he says.
To that end, there are cane and velvet barrel chairs in the high-ceilinged cafe, Cacao Patisserie, and, in some of the bedrooms, French lounge chairs covered in graphic hill-tribe fabrics and linen-colored pendant lights draped in tribal silver beads. Bensley, who believes a hotel should be a layered, even intellectual adventure in itself, has also hung some 500 vintage fashion illustrations and ads throughout the property and erected a lobby installation lined with industrial-size bobbins spooled in jewel-toned threads that recall not just vibrant silks but also the lush orchid gardens of nearby Ham Rong Mountain. — LUCIE ALIG