Hey, say you can judge a man’s true character by the way he reacts to an airline that loses its luggage. Likewise, you can judge a hotel by its performance in the face of a global pandemic.
I visited Vietnam in February 2020 – a pre-Apostolic period just before the world was unexpectedly plunged into lockdown and the travel industry was virtually at a standstill. At the time, a woman on a business class flight from London to Hanoi was diagnosed with coronavirus, which sparked an outbreak in the Vietnamese capital. Panic quickly ensues and the holidays are plunged into chaos. A British couple said they were abandoned in a ‘dirty hospital’ after being asked to leave their spa in Supa.
This is not the case at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, where I was fortunate enough to be held captive for seven days. Under the pragmatic and confident leadership of General Manager Andrew Whiffen, serenity continued at the five-star resort, renowned for its coconut milk beaches, expansive spa and exceptional sustainability credentials.
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay opened in 2004 and is considered one of Vietnam’s most luxurious resorts, as well as a vanguard of sustainable luxury. In a pre-Pinterest and pre-green world, he was considerably ahead of his eco-friendly design and philosophy, with an emphasis on renewable building materials and self-sufficiency.
Accessible only by boat, 51 wooden thatched-roof villas are dotted across the island’s rocky peninsula dotted with palm trees. These are either perched on top of the hills, carved into the rocks, or at ground level, with direct access to the spectacular bay that runs alongside the resort. Her water villa has already been named “the sexiest hotel room in the world” at the Smith Awards, organized by Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and has a private plunge pool and ladder that provides instant access to the sea. Each villa has its own pool and dedicated butler, and guarantees complete privacy.
Contemporary and natural interiors complement the island’s landscape – all whitewashed walls, bamboo light fixtures, quirky furnishings, and luxurious white linens. Bathrooms look like a Le Labo boutique, with warm wood accents and wood tubs begging to be sunk.
Most days begin with a basket bike, as you head to a yoga class at sunrise or straight to breakfast – an extraordinary abundance of freshly turned pancakes, dumplings, pho, bánh mì and mounds of fresh fruit and cheese displayed at its own temperature – controlled room – drizzled with freshly squeezed juices and Vietnamese coffee. This sets the tone for a diverse culinary offering of Asian-West fusion cuisine, which ranges from beachside seafood fondues to an upscale take of a traditional Vietnamese street food market.
While there’s no shortage of indulgence – from happy hour cocktails to dinner in a private wine cellar – Six Senses truly is a wellness getaway. Guests gladly indulge in massages, spa treatments, detox juices, morning hikes, gong baths, and treetop yoga. For the more serious, a tailor-made itinerary addresses issues ranging from sleep patterns and stress to diet and fitness.
There is no plastic smell here (all bottles are glass) and renewable solar energy is used where possible. Organic vegetables are grown in the on-site garden, which is also home to a chicken farm, and the resort uses local suppliers for almost everything, including herbal toiletries in chic ceramic bottles. The resort is also supporting an initiative to help clean up the oceans and collected more than 1,357 kilograms of trash in 2019.
Six Senses is as much a place for romance as it is for families. For my honeymooning husband and I, it involved candlelit dinners by an intimate cliff edge, barefoot cocktails, and sunset boat rides. For those with a young brood, there are villas with large kitchens, a thoughtful children’s entertainment program, and babysitting service available. Dusk-to-dawn activities also include cooking classes, water sports, and fishing.
I challenge anyone to visit a Six Senses resort without being quickly converted to the unique barefoot and eco-friendly luxury brand of the hotel group, which has been rolled out worldwide. The Six Senses portfolio currently has 16 locations, including urban outposts in New York and Singapore. A flagship London hotel is slated to open by Bayswater in 2023.
A year later, I still remember the lush tropical flora, the nightly buffets by the beach, and the view of Nha Trang across the bay, which lit up like a fairy light at night. Pandemic or not, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is easily one of the safest and most peaceful places in the world.
Rates for a Hill Top Pool villa start from around £ 630, based on two people sharing a guest room
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