So we head to Central Vietnam to test out the best villas and suites in each resort.
Best Villa for couples – Banyan Tree, Lang Co
If there is a formula for romance, Banyan Tree has it nailed. We think 8am is never too early for Moet. The BT breakfast across the world is legendary and a cooked to order Vietnamese pancake or Pho is a great way to start your day.
We know it’s a tough call; leaving your villa on the lake, king-size bed illuminated by a shimming mural, the Hollywood bathroom with his n hers changing areas on opposite sides (so his mess never causes concern), the oh so private infinity pool, fluffy towel wrapped sunloungers, cooling spritzer spray, indulgent double day beds loaded with more cushions than Myer, but champagne is calling!
Continue that happy buzz with a cycle through the gardens to the spa. Ensconced in a private pavilion your couples massage starts with a rose petal foot soak. Choose your incense stick wisely, some boast of increasing romantic amour (er, yes we chose Sandalwood!). Swedish strokes are delivered by expert hands, concluding with your tea of choice and fresh fruit by the lily pond. Whilst the sand and sea are tempting, hop on the complimentary boat across citrus lantern strewn river waterways to the nearby Angsana resort – for a pool that really does have wow power in both size and beauty.
The manager’s cocktail party is an absolute must. Roaring flares illuminate the main pool and a degustation of delights from satay to sushi is prepared in front of you as the wine flows and the service smoother than the pinot noir. Finish the evening at Saffron, their signature restaurant perched high above the sandy beach where Thai dishes reach new heights. Ocean waves become your soundtrack whilst dining alfresco on papaya salad with soft shell crab, delicate pancakes of shaved coconut and prawn and green chicken curry paired with a rice degustation. With food like this, it’s more than just the view.
A short buggy ride and you’ll be back in the villa, privacy, peace and the quietest air-conditioning will lull you into the best sleep of your life. All the tiniest details are thought of, your biggest challenge will be whether to do it all again tomorrow.
Best luxury villa for groups and families – Intercontinental Sun Peninsula Residences, Danang
So what is it like staying at the ‘Best Luxury Resort in the World’ as it launches its most elite villas ‘The Residences’? Well…not to too shabby!
If you want a slice of the highlife this is it. Created by Time Magazines acclaimed architect Bill Bensley suites, villas and rooms dot the private bay in the Son Tra Peninsula like design gems. Descending the cliff face is easy, just climb aboard the boat-shaped funicular taking you to levels Earth, Sea, Sky and Heaven or whizz down by buggy. First check out Citron restaurant and secure the most wanted spot; seemingly airborne lily pad pods hanging over the edge of the resort. You’ll be happy frogs indeed munching on prawn and pork spring rolls, mango salad and a superb Pho which even the local Hanoi’s say is the best in Vietnam. Your buggy will pass La Maison 1888 where Michelin-starred chef, Pierre Gagnaire has just been appointed, the elevated infinity L_O_N_G pool (for adults to play), The Longbar with its mechanical Indian style fans and human hanging basket seats. It’s tempting to stop at Barefoot where you can actually dine in a boat seemingly shipwrecked in the middle of the restaurant. If you want to ‘meet the meat’ you can pick your seafood lunch from live tanks. Personally, we would rather not be introduced!
On the far outreaches of the bay ‘The Residences’ are on a scale which makes us big kids feel small, the sense of wonderment is infectious. Unashamedly mahoosive, this is the epitome of luxury; wrap around verandas, external stairways, four poster king bed, standalone bath, complimentary mini bar, daily privileges such as the ‘club room’ and treatments at the award winning HARNN Heritage spa. There are more places to sit, perch, lounge and chill than Cafe del Mar has albums (now that’s a lot). Everything is natural wood, marble floors and glass. The visual drama is better than The Bachelor with ever changing views onto the bay. You’ll easily settle into the sumptuous sofa trying to concentrate on your butler’s introduction. “Oh, and that the building in the distance, (the 2 story one) with another infinity pool and bedroom above, yep…that’s yours too”. This is the perfect spot to share with those you love, but with a big bonus – distance!
Newest Design Hotel – MGallery Hoi Ann
Hoi Ann is less about lounging more about living (well, shopping). The old town is a short walk with all its neon lights, restaurants and tailors but we love MGallery, firstly for its position, a short walk by the river in a quiet part of town and its design. You’ll hardly hear a beep!
If red birdcages, vibrant fabrics and glimmering black tiled pools are your thing you’ll love this newly opened boutique hotel. The rooms get bigger and better as you ascend floors. Our pick is the Royal Deluxe, 50sq meters of dramatic blacks, chrome and Japanese lanterns pack a compact punch with a small balcony to peruse over the pool or flop on the red velvet day bed
You may be treated to the GM’s weekly cocktail party at the River Bar if you pick the right night. Chef’s Wa Ka Ku’s sushi is a must, then head to Laifo Restaurant (Luke Ngyuen’s a popular guest here). Swap Pho for the popular Hoi Ann specialty Cao Lau, a chewy noodle dish with layers of smoky pork, flat crispy croutons and spicy sauce with a lawn of herbs. Chase it down with fresh prawn rolls, banana blossom salad with fresh mint and braised free range duck. If it’s all getting too much finish the evening with a soothing massage in their newly opened spa.
Best Retreat Villa for nature lovers – Arman Resorts, AMANOI
They say that staying in an Aman resort is a cult; the list of celebs, notables and simply ‘those’ who can whisk up a private jet like chefs make omelettes’ is just part of daily life here. Nestled inside Nui Chua National Park, this is a spot for nature lovers and peace seekers, just over an hours drive from Nha Trang airport. That’s after the rush hour of sheep, goats and cows who find human roads superior to natural habitat. It’s a scrubby, untamed beauty of bush and tree covered hills.
The Amanoi main reception has a Japanese influence which is imbedded throughout. Villas are hidden from the connecting pathways, simply marked by a numbered stone. Sliding doors reveal an expansive villa, part pavilion with soaring ceilings, calming tones of wood, cream and bursts of red from vertical lights. Make sure you ‘splash’ out on one with a pool – you’ll be entertained from your luxurious vantage point as squirrels scamper and bell birds take $1000 bath from the deck of your infinity pool. Is it possible to charge wildlife rent?
Days merge into one another, it might be a morning at the infinity pool by the beach, snorkeling or paddle boarding. The spa pavilion is an oasis of healing, situated by the lake you can opt for yoga or let someone massage the knots away in lavish rooms decorated with art work and tapestries. Don’t miss afternoon tea high on the dining terrace overlooking the ocean. Those moreish little rice cakes cooked over an iron skillet flavoured with pork, squid or beef become the perfect match to addictive Vietnamese condensed milk coffee.
At night it’s mesmerizing to witness the growing floating city illuminate on the horizon before your eyes as local fishermen settle in for their nightly catch. British chef Danny, showcases local seafood with the tiniest baby scallops, aromatic glass noodle salad, grilled king prawns and a claypot loaded with juicy caramelized onions complimented with a superb Louis Jadot Chardonnay.