To the Vietnamese, geckos are considered symbols of good luck. A small white one welcomes us at the front door of our villa and already this weekend away feels auspicious. Our two-storey lodgings at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is an inspiring example of eco-serenity. Wooden features throughout, bamboo railings and whitewashed walls are just the start. Lashings of natural light stream in from all sides. The bay window overlooking our own secluded infinity pool and the beach beyond is most impressive, although Mr Smith is having all sorts of problems dragging himself away from another arresting sight – the fridge, which is stocked with 16 bottles of wine as well as Taittinger Champagne.
It’s all a far cry from the scene that welcomed us – thankfully, from the comfort of an air-conditioned car – as we left Nha Trang’s Cam Ranh airport. The city’s scooter mob is a remarkable sight; hundreds of mopeds zip along the streets, and almost anything goes, from a tradesman carrying a long ladder to a family of four on a single motorbike. Although driving Vietnam-style resembles out-and-out chaos, you quickly realise there is some vague logic shaped largely by horn etiquette. Basically, you honk when you start, stop, overtake or at will any time in between.
Finally we arrive, happy and safe, at the Six Senses Lounge. Although not on an island, as many think, the resort isn’t accessible by road, so we take a short trip north by speedboat – very James Bond – to Ninh Van Bay. Each time we experience a surprise bout of South China Sea spray, Mr Smith and I exchange smiles.
Our weekend getaway first reveals itself as a long crescent of white sand backed by towering mountains with dramatic rock formations closer to shore. Arriving on the private jetty we’re met by our butler, who escorts us to our villa. During the buggy ride An informs us that Ninh Van Bay is one hour ahead of Hanoi. Not because of an officially different time zone, mind, but purely to give holidaymakers an extra hour of daylight. Here, time seems to be on our side.
Dragging Mr Smith away from the fully laden fridge, we explore our Hill Top Villa, a mod Robinson Crusoe abode. We have a choice of sleeping either upstairs beneath a mosquito net that splays over a giant day-bed on an open balcony, or in the air-conditioned comfort of the downstairs room. The bathroom blends perfectly with the subtropical outdoors courtesy of an open-air shower and a wooden bath tub for two – it looks a bit like a huge, misshapen wine barrel – that Mr Smith suggests we try out later. Small details – herb-filled linen pouches to scent the room, soaps wrapped in recycled paper and ceramic jars filled with Six Senses bath products – add an eco-friendly, at-one-with-nature feel and help distinguish this retreat from so many others. An leaves us to enjoy the welcome platter of exotic fruits and champagne, and to explore two very large beds plumped with dream-inducing pillows.
Dinnertime finally arrives, so we amble to the grand wooden pavilion of Dining by the Bay. It’s a balmy evening and the view of the bay as the sun sinks is sublime. Mr Smith enjoys a local Vietnamese beef stew, but since we’re on holiday I don’t hesitate before ordering lobster. Freshly caught this morning, it’s barbecued before my eyes and served with just a wedge of lime and salt and pepper. It’s simple but sensational. Once the last of our feast has been devoured we head back to the villa, take a dip under the stars and then luxuriate with a long, relaxing herbal soak in the tub, glass of red in hand.
Waking mid-morning to the sound of a fishing boat puttering past, we decide on the day’s plans while helping ourselves to a breakfast spread worthy of royalty. First stop: the spa. When you opt for a Six Senses Spa experience, the pampering starts the moment you step into its sanctuary. Here, the entrance features enormous white stepping stones suspended over a small lake. We’re seated for our consultation with the spa manager and given ginger-infused tea and cool towels. Pardon the cliché, but there is a plethora of treatments on offer. However, I’m smitten by the sound of the Escape Journey – exfoliation, massage and facial. Mr Smith, meanwhile, has set his heart on the Oriental Massage, which is meant to uplift and enhance vitality. We peel off to our respective women’s and men’s sauna and steam rooms before rejoining for two blissful hours in the couple’s treatment room.
For more energetic holidaymakers there are all sorts of daytime activities and excursions – from diving and fishing trips to cultural visits to local villages – but this place, to us, is all about rest and relaxation in the comfort of our private villa. On our final evening, we organise an intimate meal in the romantically lit Wine Cave. It’s just Mr Smith and me, rows and rows of fabulous wines, and a few lucky geckos.