Over the last decade, Vietnam has cemented itself as one of the hottest travel destinations for those wanting more than just sun, sea and sand.
And it is easy to see why – while the south east Asian country boasts these important elements dotted along its vast coastline, there are some hidden gem resorts nestled in unexpected locations that offer more than just a bog standard summer holiday.
And for those who are searching for peace, tranquility and a generous helping of luxury (who isn’t?) look no further than Six Senses resorts.
Perfect for couples, families or solo travellers, the two locations in south east Vietnam – Con Dao and Ninh Van Bay – are so remote they are only reachable by plane and speedboat respectively.
They’re known for their sandy beaches, coral reefs and marine life, as well as their impressive sustainability programme.
(Image: Basil Childers/Six Senses Con Dao)
To witness such sights, you will need to travel a little further than the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Min City, where Vietnam Airlines flies its Dreamliner aircrafts direct from London Heathrow.
Flying out at 11am on Saturday, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we landed, 12 hours later, at 5am on Sunday.
Thankfully staying awake for that entire day proved surprisingly manageable thanks to the stunning backdrop at our first destination, along with the warm welcome we received from Six Senses staff.
After a short domestic flight to Con Dao, one of a group of tiny islands just off the southeast coast, we were met by our official chaperones who offered us a traditional Vietnamese lemongrass drink and warm towel to wash our faces and hands with (being handed free stuff here is the new norm).
The polite and friendly staff set the tone for the kind of treatment we would get throughout our stay – with every smile I try to mimic their greeting, ‘xin chao’, which was always warmly received by everyone at the luxury resort, perhaps appreciative that we attempted the lingo.
It is on the journey to the resort you get your first glimpse of Vietnam’s beauty. The 20 minute drive to Six Senses Con Dao is just as much a part of the experience as staying at the resort itself – travelling along the coastline you have blue water to the left and green shrubbery and jungle to the right – the perfect colours to represent the island’s protected national and marine park.
The resort itself offers the perfect base to connect back to nature. The villas are especially impressive – with ocean views from your bed, balcony and your own private pool, which is deliciously inviting.
It admirably boasts a green sea turtles conservation project which sees hatchlings born under supervision released into the sea. Sadly we were not lucky enough to witness this due to timing, but still you can’t deny this is an impressive initiative.
Despite its remote setting, do not think there is nothing to do here. You can rent motorbikes, collect clams, take part in water sports, enjoy beach yoga, and go for a trek across the stunning coastline. But perhaps the best way to soak up all the incredible elements of Con Dao is to go on the local life tour.
Along the way you’ll see a mix of beautiful scenery and historical landmarks, while also getting a flavour of what it is like for locals living on the island. Our very friendly and knowledgeable guide took us to a number of locations including Ben Dam Harbor, Nhat Beach and Shark Cape, Van Son Tu Pagoda, and a local market, rounded off with a traditional Vietnamese coffee (or tea, in my case).
During the tour, you also get a small sense of the lasting influence that French colonisation had (and perhaps still has) on the country, as well as the intertwined legend and folklore. The shrine to Lady Phi Yen, also known as the Lady Temple, is a perfect example of this. It pays homage to an important female name in the country’s past fight for peace.
Back at the resort, luxury aside, the most important element to your stay at Six Senses Con Dao is the impressive sustainability programme. And we’re not just talking about recycling paper and glass.
All aspects of your stay will have been carefully thought out to minimise your carbon footprint – from the wood used to build the villas, to the organic garden where a wide variety of exotic plants, vegetables and herbs are grown to be served at the resort’s eateries and dining room. Which incidentally all offer an incredible mix of local delicacies, from the country’s national dish, Pho, to freshly caught fish, such as the tender red snapper, and an array of seafood. Oh, and the head chef is a Manc (small world).
For veggies, vegans and those with allergies or intolerances such as gluten, do not be put off – whatever your requirement, the kitchen will whip up a number of alternative dishes that will perfectly hit the spot. Tip – the tofu pho is incredible, and thanks to the Vietnamese diet being largely dairy free, those with lactose issues will probably have the best time experimenting. Just stay away from the condensed milk.
After two nights at the resort it was hard to say goodbye to the luxury we had become accustomed to – aside from a couple of flash tropical storms which end as quickly as they arrive, the 25C heat and location really did offer a little slice of perfection that just does not exist on our side of the planet.
Little did we know there would be more of this (and then some) at our next destination, Nha Trang, which hosts the second Six Senses resort, Ninh Van Bay.
After a good half a day of travelling, and another flash of Vietnamese rain (which put even Manchester’s showers to shame), what better way to recover than with a speedboat ride to another little paradise.
This time nestled in a dramatic bay looking out to sea, Ninh Van Bay is a sight to behold. Towering mountains on one side and white sandy beaches on the other, perfectly complementing each other’s unique beauty. You definitely get a rainforest feel here, despite being on the coast.
The resort’s sustainability programme is just as ambitious; as is the luxury. It has all the elements that made up Con Dao, but here it definitely feels less of a sleepy experience, so it really depends on what kind of holiday you’re after.
If you ever wondered what it would be like to live as a celebrity, check out the extravagant hilltop reserve villa, which not only boasts panoramic sea views but also enjoys a grand private infinity pool, which really offers an insight into how the other half lives.
From immersive cookery classes and flying yoga to hardcore hikes in the jungle and water sports, there is an impressive calendar of activities that guests can take part in. You can also take advantage of the spa and wellness centre, which offers all kinds of therapies, such as the traditional Vietnamese massage, and also take a wellness screening to get a steer on your body’s current state.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of this trip happened during a boat and snorkelling trip. For those who have not witnessed the incredible beauty of a coral reef before, I urge you to put this on your bucket list. The footage broadcast on David Attenborough’s BBC documentaries just do not do it justice.
The natural splashes of colours and breathtaking formations that make up the underwater ecosystem is unlike any other sight you will ever see.
As well as showing off the reef, staff are at the forefront of aquatic sustainability, perhaps best demonstrated through their coral conservation, which sees the team grow corals and using those to replant a reef that may have been damaged.
This experience was then rounded off with a little surprise to the members of our group, whose names had been engraved into metal tags which were attached to one of the replanted coral frames, which now live on the sea bed.
It is these little finishing touches that never ceased to amaze me throughout the trip – from the wooden engraved name tags on our bicycles (the best way to get round the resort, unless it’s raining then take advantage of the chauffeured golf buggies) to the little gifts that were left in our villa.
On top of that, all members of the Six Senses team, in both resorts, could not do enough for you as a guest – you really do get the luxury you pay for.
From the gardeners to the bar staff, housekeeping right the way up to the managers, they all succeeded in creating a bubble of calm around you – from the moment you arrive to the second you say your goodbyes.
And in a 24/7 world filled with stress and worry, you’re not going to get any closer to inner peace than this.
Rates for Six Senses Con Dao start from $700++ (currently approx. £548) per night based on two people sharing an Ocean View Duplex Pool Villa including breakfast (++= 5% service charge and 10% tax) www.sixsenses.com
Rates for Six Senses Ninh Van Bay start from $810 (currently approx. £634) per night based on two people sharing a Hill Top Pool Villa including breakfast (++= 5% service charge and 10% tax) www.sixsenses.com
The article "Vietnam- Find inner peace and tranquility at this paradise travel destination" was originally published on https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/trips-and-breaks/vietnam-find-inner-peace-tranquility-17803293