24 May, 2010

The Nam Hai, Hoi An

24 May, 2010

I’ve just returned from a week’s vacation in Vietnam with my husband and his family (Mum, Dad and Brother). We first flew to Hanoi for a few days at the truly awesome Sofitel Legend Metropole, then flew on to Hue for a little bit of culture and temple-hopping and from there drove South to Hoi An, where we didn’t find any respite from the heat, but did discover The Nam Hai. The Nam Hai is a hotel on the beautiful Hoi An Beach, which is famous as the spot picked by the US military for their R&R during the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese call it, the American War). The Nam Hai is the first GHM hotel I’ve stayed at, but having visited one, I’m definitely eager to visit the group’s other resorts in Asia – The Datai  in Langkawi and The Legian in Bali.

The beauty of this hotel is in the minimalist architecture and restrained landscaping which allow the true beauty of the surroundings to shine – it’s all charcoal slate and lush tropical greenery. The resort is quite large, with 60 guest houses and 40 pool villas, but even with relatively high occupancy rates, feels totally peaceful and private as so many guests choose to luxuriate by their private pools rather than head to the main pool area. The jewel in the crown of The Nam Hai is the sweep of horizon pools which lead down a slope from the reception area to the beach. Horizon pools are everywhere these days, but these ones are truly breathtaking, and absolutely enormous – you’d have to try extremely hard to even come within a 10 metre radius of another swimming guest. Sun loungers are spaced far enough apart that you can’t hear the conversation of your neighbours, and attendants in traditional conical hats make sure you’re well-supplied with water, fresh fruit and cooling sorbets.

We were upgraded to a pool villa as we were in a group, and loved the interior decoration, which features a lot of dark wood and creamy walls. Each villa comes with its own iPod and iPod deck which has been pre-filled with fun tunes, dreamily soft beds and a stunning bathroom with outdoor shower for that thrill of al-fresco nudity! You can call golf buggies to come to pick you up from your villa to take you to breakfast or the pool, and the staff spoke amazing English and were all so friendly and helpful.

The temperature of Vietnam in May is steamy hot – the mercury hit 40 degrees celsius each day (that’s 104F) and I really felt let down by my Northern European complexion as I spent most of the day hiding out in the shade or wallowing in the air con. Unprotected skin can burn in about ten minutes due to the ferocity of the sun. We’d love to return in the slightly cooler months of the peak season, which are from September to January.

Hoi An itself is only a fifteen minute cab ride away from the hotel, and as the food at The Nam Hai is really incredibly expensive (my only gripe with the hotel – for a 14 USD “shrimp salad”, I’d expect more than 3 sad little shrimp!!) you can head into town for lunch and dinner each day. Our favourite restaurants in town were The Secret Garden (traditional Vietnamese food in a beautiful setting tucked away down an alley) and The Mango Rooms, where you can enjoy fresh salads, baguettes and delicious fruit smoothies. The Mango Rooms won my heart as one of their dishes was called “Sassy Chic”! I had some dresses copied by some Hoi An tailors, which is what the town is gaining a real name for, but the prices are pretty expensive if you’re coming from Hong Kong rather than Europe, so be prepared for a surprise…

Da Nang airport is only a 30 minute drive from The Nam Hai, so you can fly directly from Hoi An or Ho Chi Minh City, making it the perfect destination for a long weekend. Lucky old Singaporeans get a direct flight there, so they seemed to make up the largest client group. Special rates are available to Hong Kong residents at around 50% of normal prices, so make sure to enquire about this if you make a reservation.

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