hey say that you can judge the true character of a man by how he reacts to an airline losing his luggage. Similarly, you can judge a hotel by how it performs in the face of a global pandemic.
I visited Vietnam in February 2020 – a prelapsarian time just before the world was unexpectedly thrust into lockdown and the travel industry was all but rooted to a standstill. At the time, a woman on a business class flight from London to Hanoi was diagnosed with coronavirus, leading to an outbreak in the Vietnamese capital. Panic promptly ensued and holidays were thrown into chaos. One British couple reported that they were abandoned in a “filthy hospital” after being asked to leave their spa resort in Supa.
Not so at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, where I had the good fortune of being sequestered for seven days. Under the pragmatic and assured guidance of general manager Andrew Whiffen, serenity continued at the five-star resort, renowned for its coconut milk-white beaches, extensive spa offering and superlative sustainability credentials.
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay opened in 2004 and is considered one of the most luxurious resorts in Vietnam, as well as a vanguard in sustainable luxury. In a pre-Pinterest, pre-eco conscious world, it was dramatically ahead of the curve in its design and environmentally-friendly ethos, with a focus on renewable building materials and self-sufficiency.
Accessible only by boat, 51 thatched wooden villas are peppered across the island’s rocky, palm tree-strewn peninsula. These are either perched high in the hilltops, etched into the rocks or on ground level, with direct access to the dramatic bay that hugs the resort. Its Water Villa was previously named the 'sexiest hotel bedroom in the world' at the Smith Awards, hosted by Mr & Mrs Smith, and boasts a private plunge pool and ladder that offers instant access to the sea. Each villa has its own pool and dedicated butler, and guarantees complete privacy.
Contemporary, natural interiors complement the island’s landscape – all whitewashed walls, bamboo fixtures, zesty furnishings and luxurious white linen. The bathrooms feel akin to a Le Labo boutique, with warm timber accents and wooden bathtubs that just beg to be sunk into.
Most days begin with a basket-fronted bike, as you cycle to a sunrise yoga class or straight to breakfast – an extraordinary bounty of freshly flipped pancakes, dumplings, pho, bánh mì and mounds of fresh fruit and cheese displayed in its own temperature-controlled room – washed down by freshly squeezed juices and Vietnamese coffee. This sets the tone for a varied culinary offering of Asian-Western fusion cuisine, which ranges from seafood hotpots by the beach to a high-end spin on a traditional Vietnamese street food market.
While there is no shortage of indulgence – from happy hour cocktails to dinner in a private wine cave – Six Senses is very much a wellness getaway. Guests happily submit to massages, spa treatments, detoxing juices, morning hikes, gong baths and yoga in the treetops. For the more serious, a bespoke itinerary addresses concerns ranging from sleep patterns and stress to diet and fitness.
There is not a whiff of plastic here (all bottles are glass) and renewable solar energy is used where possible. Organic vegetables are grown in the on-site garden, which also boasts a chicken farm, and the resort uses local suppliers for almost everything, including the plant-based toiletries in chic ceramic bottles. The resort also supports an initiative to help clean-up the oceans and collected more than 1,357 kilograms of rubbish in 2019.
Six Senses is as much a place for romance as it is for families. For my honeymooning husband and I, it was candlelit dinners on an intimate cliff edge, barefoot cocktails and sunset boat rides. For those with a young brood, there are villas with large kitchens, a thoughtful programme of children’s entertainment and a babysitting service available. Dusk-till-dawn activities also include cookery classes, watersports and fishing.
I defy anybody to visit a Six Senses resort without being swiftly converted to the hotel group’s unique brand of barefoot, eco-conscious luxury, which has been rolled out across the globe. The Six Senses portfolio currently totals 16 locations, including urban outposts in New York and Singapore. A flagship London hotel is set to open by Bayswater in 2023.
One year on, I am still reminiscing about the lush tropical flora, nightly buffets by the beach and the view of Nha Trang across the bay, which lit up like a string of fairy lights at night. Pandemic or not, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is easily one of the safest, most peaceful places in the world.
Rates for a Hill Top Pool Villa start from approx £630, based on two people sharing on a B&B basis