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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INTERCONTINENTAL DANANG SUN PENINSULA

If the Nam Hai sounds a little too subdued for your tastes, consider Danang’s new InterContinental, which I can guarantee you looks unlike any InterContinental resort you’ve seen before. For one, there’s the swoon-worthy setting: the buildings are terraced down a hillside above a private cove on the thickly forested Son Tra Peninsula, which is really more of an island, connected to the mainland by a low isthmus that runs between the city’s main beach and the mouth of the Han River. After the low-key hubbub of Danang, the peninsula’s wild, dewy luxuriance comes as a pleasant surprise.

It’s the design of the InterContinental, however, that has everyone talking. The whole thing—architecture, interiors, landscaping, signage, art, even the staff uniforms—is the work of Bill Bensley, whose Bangkok-based studio made its name with such acclaimed projects as the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai. Given creative carte blanche and what must have been a stupendous budget, Bensley—whom Forbes once anointed “the go-to guy for resort hotels that want something different and a little strange”—has delivered a lavish fantasyland where vernacular elements like carved merawan wood panels and gray-tiled rooftops rub up against the quirky (Vietnamese busts festooned with seashells), the kinky (my room had a tinted mirror positioned above its bed), and the outrageous (is that really a stuffed ostrich?). Lovers of a less aggressive aesthetic might be put off, but I found it hard not to get caught up in the exuberance of it all, not to mention the sheer scale of the vision: there’s hardly a corner or surface that has escaped Bensley’s keen eye for detail. And the rooms—of which there are 197 spread across more than a dozen accommodation blocks, including a clutch of seaside villas—are supremely comfortable, done up in predominantly black-and-white tones with big beds, big balconies, and big bathrooms fitted with terrazzo soaking tubs.

The InterContinental Danang is especially good for families. Young children will love roaming the grounds and spending time in the pirate ship–themed kids’ club, which, conveniently, is located right behind the Long Bar, where parents can chill out over champagne cocktails on oversize daybeds. And what could be more fun than riding the Nam Tram, a boat-shaped funicular that carries guests some100 vertical meters between the reception level and the beachfront? Those looking for more active pursuits can join guided treks into the surrounding hills to spot rare douc langurs, go kayaking around the bay, or try their hand at steering a bamboo coracle, surely among the most infuriating contraptions ever invented.

Food is a highlight, too, particularly the Vietnamese fare at Citron. Dishes such as betel-wrapped beef marinated in five-spice and oyster sauce and grilled grouper in banana leaf are considerably more authentic than you’d expect from a resort kitchen, thanks largely to the fact that the restaurant caters as much to in-house guests as it does to townies from Danang, who are clearly a discerning bunch. I’d be hard pressed to name a more pleasing lunchtime snack than Citron’s pomelo-and-soft-shell-crab salad, especially when enjoyed from the vantage point of one of the outdoor dining booths, which hover like upside-down non la (conical hats) above the hillside. Pizzas and pastas are more the order of the day at the sand-floored Barefoot Café, a breezy beachside eatery lit by tiki torches in the evening. Alas, the resort’s signature dining room, La Maison 1888, was still a couple weeks away from opening during my visit. But with an haute French menu by Michel Roux (one of the founding chefs of London’s Le Gavroche) and a soigné setting in a colonial-style mansion, it’s bound to impress.

Bai Bac, Danang; 84-511/393-8888; ichotels group.com; doubles from US$280

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