(CNN) — Once a sleepy town famous for its rice terraces and ethnic tribal cultures, Sapa -- a five-hour drive from Hanoi -- has grown in recent years to become one of the hottest tourist destinations in Vietnam.
With a population of less than 140,000, the area welcomed more than 1.6 million visitors in the first half of 2019 -- accounting for 57% of tourists visiting the entire Lao Cai province.
Along with this travel growth, naturally, has been an influx of new hotels. But the latest and arguably the first five-star international property is taking things to a new level. The glamorous Hotel de la Coupole was designed by Bill Bensley -- the mastermind behind some of Asia's most stunning hotels, like Rosewood Luang Prabang and Cambodia's Shinta Mani Wild -- and resembles a luxurious European palace from the early 20th century.
A throwback to the early 1900s
"The DNA of the hotel is the nostalgia of the French Indochine era of the early 1900s," says Jean-Pierre Joncas, Hotel de la Coupole's general manager. "French haute couture blended with vibrant hill tribe ethnic colors."
The interior of the 249-key hotel reflects this DNA.
The façade and "classic" rooms adopt shades of mustard -- a typical color used in the French Indochine era, while other rooms feature bright orange and ruby red colors, inspired by Sapa's Hmong hill tribe.
Embroideries and patterns on some of the fabrics also pay tribute to Hmong culture. The chandelier in the lobby is inspired by a traditional Hmong hat.
Antique objects -- including original storefronts from 1900s Paris -- are part of the hotel's elaborate interior.
"With the development of tourism, as an operator, we really want to educate our guests so that they respect the area and they respect the local cultures that they may be meeting for the first time," says Joncas.
"And on the other side, we do want to work with the locals and the local community... about how to preserve that culture and preserve their uniqueness."
Some of the biggest highlights include an indoor spa and swimming pool, La Grand Bassin, that looks like a scene from a Wes Anderson movie, a 435-square-meter ballroom and a kids' club for the young ones.
In terms of dining, the hotel is home to a French restaurant with a local twist, a rooftop bar overlooking the mountains of Sapa and a French patisserie.
Hotel de la Coupole is a part of Accor Hotel Group's boutique MGallery Hotel series, which focuses on history, literature and culture.
Hotel De La Coupole, 1 Hoang Lien Street Sapa District Lao Cai Province, Sapa; +84 21 4362 9999