I am clutching onto my orange life vest as we cruise through every choppy wave of the East Vietnam Sea on our hotel’s boat transfer. As the small speedboat carries us out further away from Nha Trang and closer to the hotel I am once again making false promises to myself, this time I’ll really learn how to swim when I go home. Within 30 minutes we’re greeted by Neer, our dedicated on-site butler, at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, an oasis of calm and our hotel for the next two nights.
Ten days of traveling around Vietnam by this point had left the Brit and me a little delirious from the humid heat and weary on our soles. We retreated into our 2 story beachfront pool villa for a little catnap on the open air day bed moments after arriving. The sights, smells and predictable rhythm of motorcycle noise pollution that trailed us from Hanoi all the way to Nha Trang seemed to have left us and parked itself by the boat we arrived in.
As we started to feel whole again, having woken upto the soft crash of waves and the rustling of leaves, my normal state of curiosity stamped into action and I set out to explore the villa, incredulous at every turn (in addition to a day bed there’s also a nap nook!). Wooden beams/poles and a family of bamboos stretched throughout our villa, which apparently is constructed using all natural and sustainably sourced materials.
Bright whites filled the bedroom, the only air conditioned room in the villa, with ceiling to floor glass doors that opened up access to our private plunge pool. Twenty feet away through a narrow pathway, surrounded by lush tress and bushes on both sides, was the beach. If I was in better form (and not completely dehydrated) I would have parked myself on the lounge chairs by the pool simultaneously taking in our beach view and sipping our “welcome to Six Senses” sparkling wine, instead I decided to make it rain outdoors.
I have a fascination with showering outdoors, it just feels so damn liberating. Stepping out from under the waterfall shower I felt that sheer exhilaration of being in the moment. I don’t ever want to leave. Though it could have been the post outdoor shower talking, as I mentioned I love outdoor showers.
(Note: the above photo of the gorgeous deepset wooden bathtub & bathroom is in the Rock Pool Villa, not in the Beachfront Pool Villa I stayed in. My open air bathroom was just as nice but I will note that the bathtub leaks quite a bit when used).
The Six Senses property spreads across Ninh Van Bay. Walking around is easily done but many guests take advantage of the bicycles that are offered free of use for each villa to cycle around the premises. Of course you can also call your dedicated butler for pick up and drop off in his golf buggy, which is probably very necessary for those staying in the steep hilltop villas. I’m a poor cyclist – so much so that I actually can’t even claim to be a cyclist – but was emboldened to explore on two wheels since the distances aren’t far … and showering outdoors always makes me feel a bit more adventurous.
A short cycle ride through what I would loosely refer to as bamboo forests could lead you to the Six Senses spa, outdoor jungle gym, garden, game room, three on-site restaurants and hotel pool. As soon as the Brit realized the hotel offers a substantial library of movies, which includes classics and newer releases, he diligently picked a few from the reception for them to load onto a USB stick for our in room entertainment during our stay (we watched Cast Away). I explored the bungalow style restaurant, Dining by the Pool, once again admiring the organic quality of the materials used throughout the resort.
During our stay we tried all three different restaurants Six Senses had to offer. Dining by the Rocks is the hotel’s signature restaurant (and the only one that requires reservations), offering an intimate setting for guests to dine under the stars and right over the sea in good weather. Dining by the Pool is where we lunched next to a couple of rambunctious kids – and even then I was over the moon with my grilled prawn skewers over a bed of vermicelli noodles.
Breakfast taken at Dining by the Bay is where all my breakfast dreams came true. A buffet was on offer that had stations serving both western (pastries, fry ups, waffles) and local (vietnamese noodle soups, stews, congee etc) options. The fresh juice bar and healthy yogurt & cereal station is also not to be missed. Over the previous 12 days of my Vietnam travels I had noodles for breakfast every morning just as the locals did but eventually broke the rhythm by indulging in Six Senses’ Bo Kho (beef stew) mopped up with french bread – a dish so very similar to my aunt’s famous weekend specialty.
On our last evening at Six Senses we spent an hour at sea with our host, Mr Long (who, as he pointed out in a very good nature, is a little squat and indeed not very long at all). While the bay offered stunning views it was the sight of the fishermen’s floating homes that piqued my interest. About a dozen floating homes occupy space within Ninh Van Bay for breeding fish, lobster and squid. Only men live in the shacks while they are working as the lifestyle is not suitable for women and children but fortunately they have dogs, lots of them, to keep them company (and to stand guard).
Two days at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay breezed by a little too quickly for the both of us. While I was tempted to refuse to leave, the chaos of Saigon was waiting for us with the promise to resume the frantic energy of Vietnam that beckoned me to travel there in the first place. At the airport, we eagerly looked up other Six Senses locations with the hope that this unparalleled experience could be extended to another trip… so Bhutan is looking nice for 2016…
How to get there:
The only way to get on Ninh Van Bay is via the hotel’s boat transfer from Nha Trang. Six Senses offers a hotel pick up at the Nha Trang airport (within baggage claim area) to all guests. Basically the general idea is that once you arrive in Nha Trang you won’t have to worry about anything else. Just make sure you confirm your flight details/itinerary with the hotel since communication was somehow crossed and our pickup was delayed for 45 minutes.
Note: I was a guest of Six Senses Ninh Van Bay. All views are my own.