This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
t’s December, the middle of the rainy season in central Vietnam. As my plane taxis to a stop at Danang International Airport, I can see de-commissioned MiG fighter jets in dilapidated hangars alongside the runway. Their presence might be odd given that the conflict which the Vietnamese prefers to call the ‘American War’ ended 40 years ago, but visitors will have no doubts as to who runs the country now. The airport terminal is a small building which has seen better days. In the late 1960s, Danang airport was the busiest in the world. Just next door, they are putting finishing touches on a spanking new four-storey terminal, and in two weeks’ time, I will be departing via that terminal. “Welcome to Danang! My name is Jack,” announces the driver sent to pick me up, courtesy of Hyatt Regency Danang. Along the way, Jack fills me in on the latest developments since I last visited a few years ago. “Over there is Chi Lang Stadium where we have our football matches,” he proudly points out. ”And here is another five-star resort coming up,” he gestures as we turn into the street running parallel to the beach facing the South China Sea. I counted no less than a dozen luxury resorts and condominium projects — including the massive Danang Beach Resort development with its Greg Norman-inspired golf
course. Left, right and centre, Danang is a work-in-progress. Foreign occupying forces who fled the city decades ago are mostly back and eager to stake a claim on ‘China Beach’, a white sandy strip outside Danang made famous by American television. In fact, Danang’s beaches are ranked among the ‘World’s Most Luxurious’ by Forbes magazine. The authorities had hoped that the city would be the next Phuket but that’s wishful thinking and many are glad that things did not go down that route. In recent years, Danang, located right smack in the middle of the country, is regaining its reputation as an R&R destination for tired souls seeking respite from the frantic pace in the big cities. Danang may be Vietnam’s third largest city, but tall buildings are rare and traffic is leisurely. Here, you will not find the chaotic swarm of motorbikes with horns blaring like in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Within a 100km radius, there are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the romantic ancient city of Hoi An, the former imperial capital Hue and the My Son historical ruins. Besides its pristine beaches, the central coast is well-known for its sumptuous seafood, and lately, an increasing number of resorts and golf courses. Between Danang, Hoi An and Hue, you are truly spoilt for choices when it comes to wellness retreats.
writer/photographer Pete Wong
finding balance in central
Vie Spa at Hyatt Regency Danang ReSoRt & Spa When Hyatt Danang opened for business a few months ago, it showed the world just what can be achieved given the will and resources. The impressive contemporary architecture seems to embrace the ocean that it faces and is a refreshing departure from resort designs along the coast. Guests wake up in rooms with modern interiors of pine-coloured wood panels, sliding mirror doors and natural stone bath tubs — and have to remind themselves that they are not in Phuket or Bali. There are 200 guestrooms, 174 apartment units and 27 three-bedroom villas, so you can imagine how big the resort is. Their restaurants serve great Vietnamese and western cuisines so you need not have to worry about dining outside the resort. Vie Spa, located away from the main building, has a fountain out front and an inviting lobby. On the menu are signature packages, facials, massages, scrubs, wraps, baths and so on. Their sessions can last between two and four hours and include a light Vietnamese meal. Treatments are done in secluded villas with an outdoor bath tub, in case you need to take a dip before your session. danang.regency.hyatt.com Maia Spa at FuSion Maia Danang When the resort opened less than two years ago with its all-inclusive spa concept, many thought that it could not be done. The high
occupancy at the resort proves otherwise. The waiver of separate charges for spa sessions seems to be hitting the right note as many guests are seen smiling cheek-to-cheek and taking as many as three sessions a day. Breakfast can be had at any time of the day, too, and if that’s not enough, you can also hop onto their complimentary shuttles to Hoi An for dinner. The resort is like a modern village with a relaxed setting and guests can choose either a pool suite, spa or beach villa — all will have an inviting four-poster bed and in-house lap pool. Resort staff, called Fusionistas, are mostly young and energetic and their exuberance tends to rub off on you. The Maia Spa is a separate facility with its own pool, waterfall and cosy treatment rooms. Friendly spa manager, Natalie, ensures that new treatments like Ayurveda healing and reiki are added to the already extensive menu from time to time. Recommended is the ‘Fusion Feeling’ package which should be followed by meditation. Their best and strongest therapist would be Van but it may not be easy to book her. www.fusionmaiadanang.com tHe Spa at tHe naM Hai, Danang For many years, Nam Hai held pole position as the most luxurious resort in Danang. That may not be the case now with newer resorts nipping at its heels but its architecture remains impressive, and its ocean view stunning. The award-winning villa interior is mostly black granite, and most activities revolve around the bed that you
never want to get out of, with the television at your foot and the bath tub behind the headboard. Guests’ villas are spread across the vast 32-hectare site, and there are no walls separating them, so privacy can be an issue, especially with workmen working in the garden outside. Resort grounds may be huge, but you are never more than a few steps away from the beach. Over at the spa grounds, the reception opens up to a view of the lagoon framed by palm trees and six ‘floating’ villas where treatments are done. The spa ritual is practised to perfection with careful attention to details — towels are warmed and the bed is heated. On the menu are stimulating polishes, romantic bathing ceremonies, rejuvenating beauty regiments and therapeutic massages. If you need a strong therapist, ask for Loan. www.ghmhotels.com LiFe Spa at LiFe HeRitage ReSoRt Hoi an Time stands still in the ancient city of Hoi An where century-old shophouses, temples and clan houses are still preserved in the historical district along the Thu Bon river, recognised by UNESCO
THIS PAGE: Inside the treatment room at Fusion Maia Danang; Regency pool at Hyatt Regency Danang Resort & Spa; Spa Relaxation Pavilion at The Nam Hai; Spa oils at The Nam Hai. OPPOSITE PAGE: Inside one of the spa villas, Hyatt Regency Danang Resort & Spa by Pete Wong. OPENING PAGE: Thu Bon river, Hoi An by Pete Wong.
THIS PAGE: Jacuzzi inside spa treatment room at Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa, Hue. OPPOSITE PAGE: Friendly spa therapists at Fusion Maia Danang; Massage at Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa.
as a World Heritage Site. Life Resort is conveniently located on the edge of the old district and you are within walking distance to all the attractions. On a typical day, you wake up to the sound of fishing boats chugging lazily down the river loaded with their daily catch of tourists, which are more lucrative than fish nowadays. The local market is just outside the resort entrance or you can take one of the resort bicycles to cycle around town. Life can’t get any better. Over at Life Spa, you can opt for their signature packages, bath rituals, body wraps and so on. The team of therapists are friendly and chatty. If you have 80 minutes to spare, try their ‘Harmony of Energy’ which incorporates seven massage techniques. After your session, try their mouthwatering seafood platter at the in-house restaurant or take a five-minute walk along the river to the nearby local steamboat restaurants for a sumptuous meal. www.life-resorts.com VictoRia Spa at VictoRia Hoi an BeacH ReSoRt & Spa Victoria Hoi An does not compete with the bigger boys in terms of grandeur or luxury. Rather, it is happy being a Vietnamese-style boutique resort sandwiched between the sea and the river. If you take the sea-facing villas, you are practically just a few steps away from the ocean — perfect for early morning strolls along the beach. Located on Cua Dai beach about six km from downtown Hoi An,
quiet solitude is assured, but whenever you feel the urge, retail therapy is not too far away either. Room interiors are simple but cosy with timber flooring, lanterns and a Japanese tea corner. The spa is located at the main building and they have all the usual choices on the menu — the longest being the Indulgence package, lasting over four hours, which includes a caviar facial. You may want to book ahead if you want their better therapists and avoid the busy period in the late evening. www.victoriahotels-asia.com VeDana Spa, piLgRiMage ViLLage Boutique ReSoRt & Spa, Hue Couples who want privacy but don’t want to venture too far out of the city should consider Pilgrimage Village, located just 15 minutes from downtown Hue. Here, you will find yourself surrounded by jungle where birds chirp merrily by day and amorous frogs call out for mates by night. Guests hole up in villas or bungalows fitted with rustic wooden furniture, four-poster beds and timber flooring. Vedana Spa, which resembles a zen garden, plays a central role in the resort, offering sanctuary and relief to tired pilgrims with a host of treatments designed to nurture the mind, body and spirit. Visitors going to the spa around sunset when the light comes on usually take a minute to savour the visual treat before walking along the wooden platform to the impressive spa entrance surrounded by
THIS PAGE: Preparing for dinner at the Lagoon View villa, Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa; Vietnamese massage with cupping at La Residence Hotel & Spa Hue; The pool at La Residence Hotel & Spa Hue. OPPOSITE PAGE: Scenes of Central Vietnam by Pete Wong.
water ponds. Besides the ‘romance’ packages for couples and the standard massages and scrubs, several wellness programmes are on-going including complimentary tai chi, yoga, chakra cleansing and guided meditation led by resident naturopath, David. www.pilgrimagevillage.com VeDana WeLLneSS & Spa, VeDana Lagoon ReSoRt & Spa, pHu Loc Vedana is a brand new resort perched on the edge of Tam Giang lagoon, the largest in Vietnam. Located in Phu Loc, a small town almost midway between Hue and Da Nang, you will have to take a slow 45-minute ride to get there from Hue. Rural scenes of local markets and villages are a bonus along the way. Upon arrival, you will be rewarded with a postcard view of fishermen on boats going about their business and mountain silhouettes in the background. Guest villas are scattered across the resort grounds, some over the waters and some on the hillside. Their hill-top honeymoon villa comes with a private pool, but take the lagoon view villa if you enjoy sunsets. The spa is located in one of the water villas and is richly decorated with marble from the nearby Marble Mountains in Da Nang. Therapists are mostly new and still finding their way, but the management is keen on implementing wellness programmes in the near future. It might take a while for the palm trees to take shape and for the resort to earn its place as a spiritual wellness retreat, but its picturesque location is already winning points. Vedana and Pilgrimage Village Hue share the same owners, and shuttle service between the two resorts is complimentary. www.vedanalagoon.com Le Spa at La ReSiDence HoteL & Spa Hue Vietnam was once ruled by emperors, and no visit to the region would be complete without a visit to the royal palaces, tombs and mausoleums scattered across the former imperial city of Hue. Located along the banks of the famed Perfume River, which cuts across the city, is La Residence, an architectural tribute to the art deco age popular in the 1920s. In a separate wing of the hotel is Le Spa, which has been offering honey and milk baths as well as massages in all forms to weary travellers after a tiring day visiting the sights around town. For royal treatment, ask for their latest Vietnamese massage with ‘cupping’ — it’s safe even for those with hairy backs. The treatment starts with a relaxing massage followed by about 10 minutes of cupping using fire. All you feel is a tingling sensation and the sound of the suction cups being lifted off your back, really nothing to worry about as this procedure has been done for hundreds of years. You will be in safe hands if you ask for Tam, their best therapist and spa manager, who has been playing with fire for more than six years. www.la-residence-hue.com
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.