The Ultimate Vietnamese Idyll

  • Centered on platform beds, the Nam Hai’s villas evoke the form of vernacular garden houses

    Centered on platform beds, the Nam Hai’s villas evoke the form of vernacular garden houses

  • The resort’s beachfront, with views to the Cham Islands.

    The resort’s beachfront, with views to the Cham Islands.

  • A banana blossom salad with barbecued pork at the resort’s Restaurant

    A banana blossom salad with barbecued pork at the resort’s Restaurant

  • The sea might not always be swimmable off Ha My Beach, but guests at the elegant Nam Hai, a 30-minute drive from Danang, have an Olympic-size pool as compensation, not to mention a host of other indulgences.

    The sea might not always be swimmable off Ha My Beach, but guests at the elegant Nam Hai, a 30-minute drive from Danang, have an Olympic-size pool as compensation, not to mention a host of other indulgences.

  • A floral detail

    A floral detail

  • Palm trees flank the dining terrace at the Nam Hai’s main restaurant. Opposite: High chairs meet high design in a corner of the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort’s exuberantly decorated Citron restaurant.

    Palm trees flank the dining terrace at the Nam Hai’s main restaurant. Opposite: High chairs meet high design in a corner of the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort’s exuberantly decorated Citron restaurant.

  • Inside one of Banyan Tree’s 49 pool villas

    Inside one of Banyan Tree’s 49 pool villas

  • The resort’s main building

    The resort’s main building

  • A caddy at Banyan Tree's neighboring Lang Co golf club.

    A caddy at Banyan Tree's neighboring Lang Co golf club.

  • Design details like this door knocker reference the imperial architecture of Hue.

    Design details like this door knocker reference the imperial architecture of Hue.

  • A receptionist at Banyan Tree Lang Co proffering a lotus, Vietnam’s national flower.

    A receptionist at Banyan Tree Lang Co proffering a lotus, Vietnam’s national flower.

  • Thu Quan, an elegantly appointed lounge space.

    Thu Quan, an elegantly appointed lounge space.

  • Green papaya salad with prawn, at Thai restaurant Saffron

    Green papaya salad with prawn, at Thai restaurant Saffron

  • Boulders at the western end of the beach

    Boulders at the western end of the beach

  • Relaxation rooms at the spa are built above a lotus pond

    Relaxation rooms at the spa are built above a lotus pond

  • Overlooking the tiled rooftops of the InterContinental Danang’s accommodation blocks.

    Overlooking the tiled rooftops of the InterContinental Danang’s accommodation blocks.

  • A guest room at InterContinental Danang.

    A guest room at InterContinental Danang.

  • An ao dai–clad receptionist.

    An ao dai–clad receptionist.

  • At the entrance to the resort’s spa

    At the entrance to the resort’s spa

  • Lounge seating at Citron;

    Lounge seating at Citron;

  • Alfresco dining booths at Citron

    Alfresco dining booths at Citron

  • High chairs meet high design in a corner of the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsular Resort's exuberantly decorated Citron restaurant.

    High chairs meet high design in a corner of the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsular Resort's exuberantly decorated Citron restaurant.

  • Betel-wrapped beef at Citron.

    Betel-wrapped beef at Citron.

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It was perhaps only a matter of tIme before the Danang area—situated within striking Distance of three world heritage sites and fringed by still-serene beaches—emerged as the ultimate vietnamese idyll. judging from a trio of indulgent seaside resorts, that time has come

By Chris Kirkpatrick
Photographs by Martin Westlake

IN THE ROLL CALL OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN beach destinations, Central Vietnam—specifically the coastline in and around Danang, the country’s third-largest city—has long registered little more than a murmur. Expect that to change. The 30-kilometer long stretch of sand running south from Danang is now studded with beach hotels (a Hyatt Regency is among the newcomers); there are three championship-caliber golf courses within an hour’s drive from town; and a year-old terminal at Danang International Airport, designed to handle upwards of four million passengers annually, is bringing in more overseas visitors than ever before. Many, no doubt, will come to poke about the area’s World Heritage Sites: Hoi An, Hue, and the11th-century Cham ruins of My Son, Vietnam’s counterpart to Angkor. But for the “been there, done that” crowd, here’s another enticement: a trio of Vietnam’s most beguiling resorts—one an established favorite, two not even a year old—that are destinations in their own right. Better still, there’s not a single Filipino band or Jet Ski within earshot, just the rustle of palm fronds and the lapping of waves against a seashore whose time has come.

THE NAM HAI

So, what’s all the fuss about? When the Nam Hai opened on Ha My beach in 2006, it was widely hailed by travel pundits—this magazine included—as the country’s most elegant resort. Half a dozen years on, it can still lay claim to that mantle. If the Nam Hai’s understated villas and terraced public spaces appear Aman-ish, it’s because they bear the imprimatur of Amanresorts founder Adrian Zecha, who collaborated on the project with Indonesian interior designer Jaya Ibrahim and French architect Reda Amalou. Arranged in a series of horseshoes that arc back from the beach, the100 villas, roofed in flat terra-cotta tiles, take their cues from Central Vietnam’s traditional nha ruong, or garden house—essentially an elongated living space centered on a raised platform that here is occupied by a bed, a tub, and (for the limber) a sunken work station. Gleaming tropical woods and smooth granite floors are accented with lacquered eggshell finishes, gauzy bed curtains, and hand-carved grilles, an effect spoiled only by the standmounted TV plunked down unceremoniously at the foot of the bed. Preloaded iPods offer a less-obtrusive bit of technology, while bathrooms open onto sexy garden showers.

Having neglected to book one of the Nam Hai’s pool villas, I took solace in the views from the breezy outdoor daybed fronting my villa, and in laps in the three palm-flanked swimming pools (one Olympicsize) that serve as the property’s aqueous centerpiece. The surf of the East Sea—which, unless you want to be scolded, is how you refer to the South China Sea in Vietnam—was a touch too big for swimming during my November visit, but I happily strolled the powdery beach, sometimes without passing another soul. Resorts might be thick on the shore closer to Danang or Hoi An, but out here, you’re more likely to spot seashells than sun loungers.

You certainly won’t spot any water sports—somnolent gentility is more the flavor at the Nam Hai. There is, however, an excellent spa, set around a lotus pond and featuring overwater relaxation rooms from which you can watch carp swim past. And for guests looking to explore the touristy but quaint-as-can-be lanes of Hoi An’s well-preserved Old Town, a shuttle bus can whisk you there in15 minutes. For a more immersive experience, ask the concierge to set you up with a “sunrise fisherman tour”—you’ll help unload the day’s catch before your fellow guests even wake up for breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, the morning spreads at the Nam Hai are terrific, augmented by sparkling wine and energizing shots of pineapple juice, ginger, lime, and local basil. The rest of the meals, surprisingly, were hit and miss, perhaps because one of the resort’s two restaurants was closed for renovations while I was there. Still, if it’s local flavors that you’re craving, get your fix in Hoi An: homegrown specialties such as cao lau noodles are best sampled at the source.

Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village, Dien Ban District; 84-510/940-000; the namhai.com; doubles from US$650

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