Generally IC resorts can be a little corporate. However, in the case of the IC Danang Sun Peninsula, our curiosity was piqued by the sumptuous photography in the travel glossies and the lure of an all-singing all-dancing Bill Bensley resort.
The resort is new and as expected there are some teething issues. Service is patchy to say the least. Our “greeter” at the airport looked so sour at his USD$10 tip that I nearly asked for it back; housekeeping was a bit hit and miss, doing a perfect job one night and forgetting to replace towels and shampoo the next; however staff at the resort are all trying hard despite in some cases near non-existent English which did lead to some difficulties with food orders and the like. However it is fair to say that everyone knows your name within a couple of hours of being there and your movements are documented to ensure that your room is made up whilst you’re out; your preferences are noted and you are appraised of activities which might suit. On the whole it’s a strong start.
If you’re staying at the resort, you need to be aware of several things. Firstly, it’s a 20 minute drive from DaNang city and an hour or so from Hoi An. This makes a quick jaunt to town more of a fully equipped expedition. It also makes it tricky to duck into town for dinner; and you are more likely than not to end up eating at the resort which is pricy for Vietnam. However the food is good –and better to have good overpriced food than bad overpriced food.
It is very much a destination resort as it is isolated (the benefit of which is a spectacular panorama of lush jungle leading down to a glittering, azure sea) but there is such a panoply of common areas, pools, and activity centres within the resort that you would be hard pressed to take advantage of them all: should we have cocktails at the Long Bar? Popcorn and icecream on the beanbags on the beach lawn? Take a herbal steam at the serene cinnamon-scented Spa? Have a cigar at the Viet-Colonial Buffalo Bar? Or just lounge By The Beach / Long Pool / Our Enormous Terrace / Private Colonnaded Pool …….. the stress, the stress.
Children are well catered for with IHG’s excellent Kids Club (Planet Trekkers); their own swimming pool; plenty of beach activities from snorkelling to kayaking to volleyball or a row in a traditional bamboo boat in the bay. The (free) movie selection is excellent with plenty of options from Pixar to Studio Ghibli. Children will also love the key mode of transport up and down the cascading resort: The Nam Tram, a boat shaped funicular running up and down the steep slopes 24/7.
The spa pavilions are set around an inland lagoon; Harnn treatments are excellent although instead of the usual bowl of flowers under the massage table, there is a reflective silver half-sphere. The unfortunate visual effect of this was that peeping through the face rest, with my arms hanging over the sides, I was reflected in the sphere looking like I was wearing the table as a costume which was a bit hilarious and not really in keeping with the serenity.
Amongst all of this, the unmistakeable hand of designer Bensley. Rooms are lovely, with drop-dead views from spacious terraces housing daybeds piped in green and black. Board-shaped tables jut out over the edges seemingly into open space, perfect for a nightcap or Nespresso. Plumptious beds are swathed in mosquito nets and hung with Hoi An silk lanterns. Bathrooms have party-sized baths, some carved into the shape of a giant lotus flower. We had one of the villas, which had a private pool and unimpeded water views and was perfect for a family of three with a large alcove daybed for our son. It was also down (and up) around 80 steps so not great for the unfit or dickie-kneed. My pick would be the Upper Suites, which had those gorgeous terraces and bathrooms which open through to a stunning sea view.
It is a beautiful resort and the details are endlessly entertaining if you are interested in such things. There is a natty black and white theme, punctuated with bursts of colour, and everything is hand-designed. Not just the obvious stuff like the staff uniforms (do not, like me, bring a black and white striped t-shirt or you risk having demands for cocktails and Hobie-Cat training made of you without warning) – but things like the tiny barefoot logo on the beach bar plates; seriously gorgeous high chairs for babies; interesting art collection and furniture indigenous to each of the very different dining and bar venues.
Hoi An is a must-do stop on the tourist trail from north to south Vietnam or vice versa. It’s a beautiful town with a leisurely feel; try and be there on the 14th of each lunar month when the whole town shuts off the power for the evening and is lit by hundreds of candles and lanterns. Having stayed here a few times, I think there are really three options for this part of Vietnam – The Anantara (formerly the Life Resort) is a sweet and simple option right in town, where you can watch the river flow by and walk out of the gate into the town proper. The Nam Hai is a undoubtedly the best luxury option, a short way out of town and just beautifully done, as are most GHM hotels – more subtle and polished than the Sun Peninsula and also more intimate in scale. However The Sun Peninsula is a resort lover’s resort which is just terrific fun – it just happens to be within day tripping distance of Hoi An.