Belinda Henley checks into the Nam Hai, The Four Seasons, Hoi An.
Located 30km from Da Nang airport. Easily accessed by taxi and a great drive past the Marble Mountain and the endless white sandy stretch of the famed China Beach.
Check-in experience: Our first glimpse of what was to come was as were ushered into reception for check in. Sitting overlooking the pool and out to sea we were handed cold towels and an iced ginger, lemon and honey drink. We were talked through the facilities and activities on offer, then taken by golf buggy to our villa. Bikes available for the duration of our stay were parked outside. It was also our first experience with the warm and genuine Nam Hai staff
Location: China Beach is south of Da Nang and away from many of the big chain resorts.
Room: We had a one-bedroom ocean view villa with a private terrace complete with sun loungers. The villas pay homage to traditional Vietnamese garden homes with large timber frames and decorative panels inside. There was incredible attention to detail, from the fresh fruit that was topped up daily to the customised sunglass holder and when we returned in the evening, the candles were lit and music playing.
The bed: Luxurious and comfortable, and made even better by the view straight out to the ocean.
Toiletries: Happily, all were in refillable containers.
Food and drink: With freshly baked bread and pastries, fresh squeezed juices, cheese, cold meats, a Pho station, house-made cereals and of course all the Western staples — and our introduction to Vietnamese coffee, poured cold over ice and served with condensed milk — breakfast was more than enough to keep us going for the day. We also sampled Seafood Market night where you select live fish from tanks inside the restaurant before waiting with an icy cold local beer or a Nam Hai signature cocktail for the chef to prepare it. Sadly the stingray, a local delicacy, wasn't available the night we went. The poolside restaurant has an excellent selection of Western food and hands out cones of coconut sorbet.
Bathroom: Huge, with a double vanity and two dressing rooms, a separate shower and toilet. There was also a very private and high pressure outdoor shower and a huge bath.
Noise: Tropical birds and waves.
Exercise facilities: Where do I start? A 6am guided bike ride through rice paddy fields and villages; a variety of yoga disciplines including anti gravity yoga which provides a complete physical reset. A huge gym, sauna and steam room, water sports from the beach and two olympic size pools for swimming laps, or just floating. There are also tennis courts, and jogging and walking maps are provided.
The Spa: It's made up of individual treatment villas "floating" out across a pond filled with lotus flowers and lilies. Each spa treatment starts with the therapist using crystal sound healing bowls to "reset" your vibrations. I fell asleep, so there must be something in it. A fusion of the best in Western luxury with Vietnamese culture and traditions.
Other: We spent a morning at the Nam Hai Cooking Academy. After a trip to the local markets in Hoi An to select and learn about local produce, we were back on site to create Vietnamese dishes. My favourites were the Pomelo Seafood salad and grouper cooked in banana leaf. Bursting with traditional flavours of lemongrass, chilli, basil and ginger, these dishes showed even an amateur Kiwi cook can create Vietnamese-inspired magic.
Perfect for: Everyone. Nam Hai is a wonderful example of how a five star resort can offer luxury accommodation while putting local culture at the heart of what they do.