The Nam Hai review | Spa Hotel, Vietnam
Private villas and spa indulgence on Ha My beach
The Quick Read: This is a luxury spa hotel in Vietnam on stunning Ha My beach and close to gastronomic haven and UNESCO World Heritage town Hoi An. From exquisitely-decorated one bedroom villas, to houses with private dining rooms (with up to five bedrooms and quarters for your private butler), it’s the ultimate in beachside Vietnamese luxury. The spa, overlooking its own lake filled with lotus flowers, the air above thronging with butterflies, has eight pavillions with French doors affording views out across the water. There are open-air relaxation decks with bathtubs, and daily yoga and meditation classes are led by in-house yogi Giri. Dinner can be taken poolside at the Beach Restaurant, but if you have a few nights our advice is to take the shuttle bus to glorious Hoi An for some of the best food you are ever likely to eat in Vietnam.
Who it’s best for: The Nam Hai is best for couples without a doubt – it is romantic and the individually-situated villas afford a great deal of privacy. But we felt fine here on our own, even though we were one of the odd ones out. It would be the perfect indulgence for girls travelling together with a bob or two to spend. On our visit there were no stars in residence, but this is almost certainly the kind of place where you are likely to spot them.
What you can do: Begin the day with a private hatha yoga class with in-house guru, Giri Raj Timshina, who will taper your lesson to your ability and physical needs. Should you have the energy for it, follow this with Giri’s free open class as well as meditation (which runs every morning except Sunday). Classes take place in an open-air lounge, overlooking the hotel’s terraced swimming pool and the South China Sea beyond, and Giri (originally from Kathmandu) encourages guests to practice deep breathing which, he says, brings energy and can increase sexual power.
Should you desire further physical activity part from these classes, swimming and walking along the pristine beach, there are tennis courts, bicycles to explore the 35-acre site and its tropical gardens and regular shuttles to Hoi An where you can take a walking tour of the historic buildings of the town, or shop and eat in its amazing food market. Try cau lao noodles, com ga (chicken rice) and, what is reputed to be the world’s best banh mi (baguette sandwich). Take a cooking class with Ms Vy of Taste Vietnam — aka chef Trinh Diem Vy who is to Hoi An what Rick Stein is to Padstow. ‘For me cooking is not about recipes. Cooking should come from your heart,” she says. “The ingredients, using the right heat and making it with love are the most important things.’
Where you stay: We stayed in a one-bedroom villa decorated in dark laquerwood with a vast, raised bed at its centre – draw the curtains around and it feels like a cocoon. Rest, read, carry out your own practice or meditate on the private terrace with daybeds in the shade. There’s an outside shower, gorgeous toiletries such as bath salts for the freestanding eggshell-laquered bath situated just behind the bed.
We like that all shampoos, conditioners and the like are in stone bottles refilled each day, so they have less impact on the environment.
Fresh fruit is delivered daily, with a little message explaining why the particular fruits have been chosen and what their properties are. There can be mangoes, lychees, baby bananas – whatever is in seasons. Upon arrival, an iPod is set to play Ibiza-style chillout music but there are a number of playlists preprogrammed or you can swap it out for the tunes on your own device. Our room was described as beachside, but really it was a man-made extension of the beach brought up to meet the deckfronts of the villas that are sited in a horseshoe formation. Other villas, though, truly are on the beachfront. Each day your minibar is replenished and water, soft drinks and local beers are complimentary.
How was it for us: I arrived in The Nam Hai after the hustle and bustle of exciting Hanoi and then three nights of eating around Hoi An, so the chance to be still, do some yoga, meditate and have a long, healing massage were a much-welcome luxury. Opening the door of my one bedroom villa I was swooning at the interior decor, dark wood furniture offsetting the white of the muslin-draped kingsize bed, a sunken writing desk and a day divan for a spot of late-night reading and thinking that I could probably fit my whole London flat inside.
Breakfast was a vast and wonderful buffet with both Vietnamese dishes such as pho as well as the usual continental cheeses and meats and any egg dish you could imagine. Guests can help themselves to fizzy wine, bucks fizz and bloody marys, or have a juice made to order – Vietnamese café sua da – iced and topped with condensed milk – was a guilty indulgence but the Nam Hai is, after all, about spoiling yourself.
On my first day I drifted around the resort, trying a hammock on the beach but failing to venture into the sea as storms in the previous days meant it was still too rough. In a private class, Giri was patient at my moderate ability, allowing us to make videos of his hip opening and shoulder opening exercises so that I could practice them at home.
At the spa, I was led into my private pavillion and given a miniscule pair of tissue knickers that could cut like a cheesewire. I went commando – your nether regions are always covered in drape – as my masseuse worked out the massive knots in my shoulders, concentrating on here, my upper back and my head as I asked. As she worked for 90 minutes, hundreds of butterflies fluttered across the lake adding to the ethereal and zen-like feel of the place.
What we took home: Hoi An is famous for its tailors and so I had three favourite dresses copied, with my tailoress Thuy riding out to the Nam Hai to fit them before my flight home. A gift of chopsticks from the hotel was also lovely.
Would we go back: Yes, as a luxury base to combine relaxation with the wonder that is nearby Hoi An it is pretty perfect.
People watch: Giri, the yoga and meditation teacher, is gentle, truly knowledgeable and happy to taper lessons to your needs and ability. He will also come to your villa should you prefer to practice in privacy.
Food watch: The Nam Hai has two restaurants – we ate Vietnamese food by candlelight at the poolside Beach restaurant, including marinated seafood salad and green papaya salad followed by stir fried fresh clams, herbs, chilli and garlic with rice crackers. But our absolute favourite was the breakfast, with an astonishing selection of tropical fruits, yoghurts, muesli, honey straight from the comb, Vietnamese breakfast noodle dishes such as pho and cau lao, cold meats, fish, and even sushi, as well as the usual Western fayre of eggs all styles, sausage, bacon and the works.
What’s queenly: The villas are simply beautiful, with gorgeous little details at every turn. We could slip on the over-sized waffle bathrobe, wafting around to the sounds of the iPod system, meditating on the balcony or napping in the oversized bed.
What’s lowly: Whilst we understand the need to keep the beach clean, the army of people it takes each morning, sweeping and almost tweezering grains of sand made us feel over-spoiled and a bit uncomfortable.
Insider tip: There is no dress code at The Nam Hai, but guests do like to dress for dinner or cocktails in the bar. Think light, floaty dresses and flip flops and you’ll feel comfortable, cool and chic.
Price: From £618 per night for a one bed villa based on single occupancy.
Value for Money: The Nam Hai is expensive, but in terms of indulgence and luxury, it may just be worth it. And remember the free minibar.
Reviewed by Audrey Gillan
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