The Nam Hai
I wouldn’t want anything less than perfection for my blushing bride, but when we’re shown around our villa at the Nam Hai I do worry that Mrs Smith may have raised expectations about what her newly appointed husband might come up with for future romantic sojourns. We’ve been buggied from reception to our room by a friendly fellow with a wide grin (perhaps anticipating our reaction upon arrival) and because we’re on our honeymoon, we’ve been upgraded to a One-Bedroom Beachfront Villa. ‘Welcome home!’ calls our driver, and as we enter, from the look on Mrs Smith’s face I can tell she is ready, willing and able to call this place home for now. And maybe for ever more.
Exquisite is the word that springs immediately to mind as we explore. Neutral tones abound, and opportunities for lounging surround us. A raised platform in the centre of the villa is draped with white muslin and houses our king-size bed, a sunken eggshell-lacquered bath tub faces an LCD TV screen, an iPod plays the chilled sounds of Café del Mar, and there’s a cosy lounge area for two. And then we find the bottle of Moët on ice and chocolate cake left for us in celebration of our recent nuptials.
Having arrived after sundown, the true splendour of our surroundings isn’t revealed until we wake at sunrise the next day. Sweeping aside the muslin drapes at the foot of our bed, we open the French doors and take in the vista – the South China Sea stretching out to the Cham Islands in the distance.
Honeymoons are renowned for certain activities, but perhaps not early starts. We decide to kick off our stay with a swim in the ocean followed by one of the daily yoga classes conducted in an open pavilion. Afterwards, it’s off to the restaurant, overlooking one of the three gorgeous pools – for tropical fruit and freshly cooked omelettes. Sated, Mrs Smith chooses our sunloungers and one of the ever-helpful Nam Hai staff immediately rolls out fresh towels and proffers chilled face flannels and water. It’s a ritual that will be repeated many times during our visit and by the end of our stay Mrs Smith has fulfilled her ambition to spend half a day beside each pool.
Extracting ourselves from the prone position, Mrs Smith and I take a table at the Beach Restaurant. You won’t need to stretch your imagination too far to imagine the scene: tables by one of the large pools, under a cloudless sky and overlooking the ocean. The food is simple and local and we enjoy a delicious lunch of grilled fish.
Apparently, according to Mrs Smith, no tropical holiday – in particular, no tropical honeymoon – is complete without some pampering in the spa.
Complete? We only just got here. But I am a willing participant in this relaxation game, and so dutifully follow. We are met with iced lemongrass and ginger tea and, after selecting a massage oil from a choice of five, are led to a treatment room set over a serenely beautiful reflection pond. The session kicks off with a foot therapy performed while we sip tea and stare into the water. The massage itself is divinely relaxing and we float back to our villa to sup on rum and soda and watch the sky turn pink as the sun goes down.
Filling your days at the Nam Hai isn’t too tricky, given the seemingly limitless distractions. For the activity-inclined, there are tennis courts, a gym, golf courses, organised beach volleyball games and trips to the Cham Islands just for starters. Having discovered the local cuisine and a taste for it, we enrol ourselves in another of the hotel’s offerings, a Vietnamese cooking class. Early in the morning we cycle into a local village with one of the resort’s chefs, who guides us around the market showing us the tropical fruits and inviting us to taste each one. He is full of energy and fun and it’s a great chance for us to experience a little slice of local life. On return to the Nam Hai, we are given time for a quick swim before we are led into one of the restaurant kitchens to cook up a feast of rice-paper rolls, banana flower salad and a rice noodle dish with scrumptious prawns and chicken covered with an aromatic broth.
If it doesn’t involve food or being horizontal though, Mrs Smith and I find it hard to muster much enthusiasm. We are here to relax, so opt for gentle yoga, much reading time, mojitos by the pool and as many spa treatments as the missus can squeeze into her busy schedule. In our more energetic moments we trundle into the beautiful nearby town of Hoi An, a Unesco World Heritage site. It’s the most charming place, packed with hawkers touting handmade shoes, clothing and jewellery. We visit delightful eateries or simply drink the locally brewed Biere Larue and watch the world go by.
When the end of our stay draws near we try to sum up our time here and wonder how we can ever describe this place to our family and friends. Mrs Smith says it reminds her of a movie setting that you can’t imagine could be anywhere near as amazing in real life. But Nam Hai is. From the beauty of the natural surrounds to the luxury of our room and the allure of the hotel itself, every detail of our time here has been meticulously considered by someone intent on making sure we have the most relaxing time of our lives. And to whomever that is, Mrs Smith and I say a big cam on (that’s Vietnamese for thank you).
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Smith extra at The Nam Hai
A bottle of sparkling wine on arrival