InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort was bound to be a beauty: Vietnam’s vivid natural tapestry – sea, jungle, rainforest, mountains – meets Bill Bensley design. What with the restaurant, private beach, fragrant spa and romantic rooms, you’ll be weeping come home time.
Get this when you book through us:
A hotel credit of US$50 a room a stay (not to be used for La Maison 1888 or in-room dining) and, subject to availability, an upgrade to the next room category
A total of 201, including 17 penthouses and villas.
Noon; earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £361.33 ($497), including tax at 15.5 per cent.
Rates include WiFi but exclude breakfast.
Architect Bill Bensley lived on site for two years, and his commitment to the project shows in the playful design, romantic bedrooms and fruit-salad colour scheme. Bensley is behind a bunch of other Smith stays, including Indigo Pearl and Shinta Mani.
At the hotel
Beach, spa, cooking school, library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock, minibar, Harnn bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We wish we were writing this from one of the Club Peninsula Suites, which come with generous terraces where you can happily loll about all day. The minibar and wine fridge are outside, just where you want them, and your three alfresco areas include: a sofa and chairs, a day-bed with a mosquito net to hide behind, and a dining area with high chairs and a marble surfboard-shaped table. If you're feeling extravagant, splash out on a villa; if you want to save money for Hoi An threads, the Classic rooms are a generous 70sq m lead-in room category.
There’s a freeform pool close to the beach, surrounded by loungers and shady palm trees, and with a kids' pool attached; plus a lap pool above the Lounge Bar that’s accessed by a spiral staircase and has just six sunloungers positioned around it. There’s a Jacuzzi up here too: sit, soak and enjoy the downright gorgeous surroundings. The hotel's beach will have you horizontal in the blink of an eye. It’s a 700m-long stretch, utterly private, manned by a lifeguard and set in a sheltered bay with tranquil water. Towering palm trees provide shade.
Trainers for hikes in the green mountains that sprawl across Son Tra National Conservation Park.
Pepped up with shots of turquoise, the spa is a colourful, quiet sanctuary where able-knuckled masseuses dispense rubs and scrubs.
Little Smiths are very welcome: kids under six can sleep in mum and dad's bed for free; an extra bed for six to 12 year olds is US$50 a child, a night including breakfast. For over-12s (or an additional adult), there's a charge of US$100 a person a night.
Little Smiths between three and 12, who can use the kids club.
Book a villa and you’ll be steps from the hotel’s facilities: beach, restaurants, pool and bar. The villas can comfortably sleep more than one kid on the huge day bed set in an alcove (otherwise used as the TV den).
None, but Planet Trekkers - open daily between 9am and 8pm - is the free kids club for children aged between three and 12. The fun, inspiring space comes kitted out with a slide, TV/games pods, mini chairs and tables, and lots of shelves groaning with books, board games and toys.
Kids will love going swimming in the pool and sea, playing games on the beach, making new friends (or at least befriending a teddy or two) at Planet Trekkers, taking part in water sports organized by the hotel, and trying new food in Hoi An. The hotel organises a bunch of daily activities, including kayaking, beach volleyball and trekking trips. (Adults are welcome to take part, too).
The main pool has a kids area attached to it; the beach is watched over by a lifeguard.
Citron and Barefoot are great for children, and the menu has plenty to tempt junior palates.
The hotel has a clutch of dedicated nannies, who can also offer babysitting after hours.
No need to pack
Leave toys behind: Planet Trekkers has a huge selection.
Citron's three alfresco tables shaped like upturned conical hats are pretty spectacular: they're around 100m above sea level, so have dazzling views across the resort and out to sea. Then again, how often can you eat in a boat on a beach?
Oh là là for La Maison; washed-up mermaid/merman for Citron. Consider what you can comfortably hop in and out of a boat in. (See below.)
No prizes for guessing what gave Citron its name: mango-yellow and lime-bright furnishings decorate this relaxed space. This family-orientated restaurant has a never-ending buffet area, show kitchens and a fun menu of western and Asian dishes. For more grown-up evenings, there's the fine dining restaurant, La Maison 1888, which serves elegant French offerings thought up by chef Pierre Gagnaire. The Barefoot Café does what it says on the tin: expect golden sand underfoot, pretty sea views and a menu of fuss-free beach grub (try the poached salmon wrap).
Continuing the hotel’s playful feel, Long Bar has swinging chairs fit for two, huge day-beds with humbug stripes and bright yellow cushions, and a dangerous selection of jewel-bright cocktails. Try the signature libation: a fuzzy, feel-good muddle of orange juice, champagne and Southern Comfort. Happy Sunset Hour is between 5pm and 7pm; buy one glass of wine and you’ll get another free. For fine wines, vintage champagne and hand-rolled Cuban cigars, make for the veranda of the quirkily elegant Buffalo Bar.
Dinner is served until 10.30pm; the last drinks are poured at 11.30pm (Long Bar); 11pm (Buffalo); 10.30pm (Barefoot).
The 24-hour selection spans snacks, salads and fuss-free mains.
InterContinental Danang occupies a quiet, sheltered private bay, 20 minutes from Danang town by car, on the Son Tra Peninsula, also known as Monkey Mountain. Hoi An is about a half-hour drive away.
Danang International Airport is 20km away (around a half-hour drive). The airport serves all major Vietnamese airports, as well as international destinations in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.
Downtown Danang is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. You don't need the hassle of a car here, though: the hotel offers a free daily shuttle to Hoi An; driving conditions in Vietnam can be hair-raising.
Worth getting out of bed for
Indulge in a pampering journey at the hotel's serene, lagoon-lapped Harnn Heritage Spa, where suspended Hang X swinging boats beckon for reflexology. Swingers of a different kind will love the two golf courses a club’s throw away: 18-hole Montgomerie Links next to Smith hotel, the Nam Hai (+84 511 3941 942) and the 16-hole Danang Golf Club (+84 511 3958 111). While you’re here, head to Hoi An for some new togs from the tailors (the hotel has a free daily shuttle service for the hour-and-a-half journey). We got spruced up at Yaly Couture. Also don’t miss the gorgeous silks on sale at the Hoi An Cloth Market on Tran Phu Street. There are tailors on site if you want bolts of fabric turned into something special within 24 hours. The Handicraft Workshop, in a centuries-old-Chinese merchant’s house on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, offers demonstrations of traditional skills such as lantern making, embroidery and soap stone sculpture. There’s also a performance of folk music and dancing twice a day (except Monday). If you're feeling peckish, join a cooking class back at the resort's La Maison 1888 restaurant, whipping up French and Vietnamese fare.
Sample traditional Vietnamese dishes (and coffee), head to Ancient Place (+84 511 3730 777) on Dien Bien Phu Street. Pick from Western and local options at Waterfront Restaurant & Bar (+84 511 3 843 373), 150–152 Bach Dang Street. Located on Nguyen Phuc Chu Street in the heart of Hoi An, Fusion Lounge is the resort's offsite restaurant and bar. Healthy East-West fare is the order of the day, with standouts including lemongrass chicken with a chilli, sesame and mango salsa, and a tea-laced mojito cocktail. Nearby, Mango Mango (45 Nguyen Phuc Chu Street; +84 510 391 1863) serves modern Vietnamese food with a twist. Try the tuna rolls drizzled with a mint yoghurt sauce. It's a tad more expensive than some other restaurants in town, but the ambience and views over the river and Japanese Bridge are worth it.
Mr Smith is turning the big 5 0, so a tropical holiday in Vietnam seems the ideal way to celebrate his birthday. After counting down the days with our four-year-old daughter we arrive at Danang in the evening. Our taxi speeds through the fairy-lit township and we marvel at the bridges over the Han River. Our favourite is the gaudily coloured Dragon Bridge, in the shape of a long, undulating dragon which breathes fire from its mouth. We cross it, leave town and weave up into the peaks of the Son Tra Peninsula, past the towering, 67-metre Goddess of Mercy statue at the turtle-shaped Linh Ung-Bai But Pagoda, which looks serenely down on us and the magnificent sea views. Young couples lounge on their mopeds looking passionately into each other’s eyes and there’s romance in the balmy air.
A glorious, gorgeously illuminated jungle garden greets us as we enter the gates of the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. It still doesn’t prepare us for the dramatic temple of a reception hall, all black and white with flashes of red, which feels like it’s suspended above the jungle and beach far below.
Heaven, Sky, Earth and Sea… there are four levels to the resort, explains the driver of our golf buggy, as he whisks us to our room. We can see why, as the resort cascades down the mountainside to the ocean. Our Heavenly Penthouse feels suitably celestial.
I spy a frangipani tree shading our elevated private pool as we’re ushered into our courtyard. A Moorish outdoor bathroom flaunts a carved-stone central basin; the sumptuous sitting room boasts jaw-dropping views of the sea. We have one of those ‘pinch me, am I dreaming?’ moments, before flopping onto the luxurious four-poster and staring up at the swathes of fabric and lanterns cascading down from the high vaulted ceiling. We discover the pillow menu offers a choice of 10 pillows, but why change something that’s already perfect? Miss Smith is entranced by the bowls of tropical fruit (some of which we can’t identify), and we peel her some fresh lychees, which are met with cries of, ‘More, more, more!’
It feels very Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon when we wake the next day to the most spectacular horizons of sea and cloud-topped peaks. It makes us want to float through the jungle pulling kung fu moves. Instead, Miss Smith discovers you can roll into the private pool from the sofa via the lounge window. As she enjoys an early morning skinny dip, I brew some coffee using the Illy espresso machine and the family sits down for an early morning coffee at the pool bar – complete with hand-made chocolates deliciously presented on a glass-domed cake stand. What more do you need if you have coffee and chocolate with your two favourite people?
Breakfast beckons, so we hop aboard the Nam Tram, a steep funicular up the hill, cleverly designed in a traditional boat shape. On the ride to the top, we keep our eyes peeled for monkeys (we are climbing Monkey Mountain, after all). The attendant explains that they do have simian sightings, but you need to be up super early, and that isn’t going to happen if we can help it.
Arriving at Citron we gasp at the incredible vistas, although it’s hard to tear our eyes away from the riot of design. Bill Bensley, who created the resort interiors, has had so much fun. Fittingly, Citron is accented in yellow and lime, with quirky mirrors on the ceiling and outdoor circular dining booths that seemingly float in mid air. This is where we meet our personal butler, Tony, who immediately asks us our coffee preferences (good man). Not being used to the butler thang, we are a bit apprehensive about what to do with him, but more about that anon.
Totally over the top, the breakfast buffet caters for every multicultural taste. I embrace the Vietnamese pho followed by French toast. Mr Smith loves having his omelette cooked in front of him. Miss Smith has 11 different pastries to choose from and four different honeys – bliss!
The sun is shining so we venture back down on the Nam Tram to enjoy a dip. We plop ourselves beside the family pool in our own perfect little frangipani-fringed enclave, slap bang between the Long Bar and the Barefoot Café, with views of the beach. We discover a shallow sunbathing pool, sculpted to your body, and as I lie there admiring the black stone bottom, I swear I see a diamond! Turns out it’s just the sparkles in the rock. Chilled, lemongrass-scented face flannels are proffered, as well as baskets of fresh fruit. Unsurprisingly, we stay beside the pool all day, only leaving to lounge on the huge day-beds at the Long Bar, where we enjoy a pizza lunch washed down with local beer and Vietnamese iced coffee. A hookah, or shisha, is up for grabs at every booth should the mood take you.
My one attempt at activity is a mission to the spa. After sipping a cup of herbal tea, I’m whipped away by golf cart to the spa lagoon, tucked away at the far end of the beach. Its floating huts look like a mystical Asian village, and I do indeed float out after an uplifting Harnn Heritage facial.
Our butler Tony, who has already delivered teatime chocolate cake and champagne, works last-minute miracles with dinner bookings and arranging babysitting for Miss Smith. Come evening, we skip out the door for dinner at La Maison 1888, which resembles a French mansion. The cuisine is conceived by Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire. Scallops with green papaya salad gets the tastebuds working, chased up with pan-fried snapper for Mr Smith and lovely caramelised pork belly with gratin dauphinois potatoes for me. Good old French wine hits the spot as a heavenly way to mark a half century.
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