Four Seasons Nam Hai review, Hoi An: Vietnam's finest resort will not disappoint

Read our writer's views on this property below

 

Even before the Four Seasons took over and waved its wand with the Midas touch, the Nam Hai was already something special. Fronting the chalk white sand of Vietnam's Ha My Beach fringed by swaying coconut palms, the resort offers a true sense of arrival. Once you step inside the open-air lobby overlooking the tiered pools cascading down to the shimmering South China Sea beyond – you watch your cares float away. Moments after being handed your room key, you've traded sweaty travel clothes for a floaty sarong and are gliding serenely through the lush manicured grounds by bicycle – forgetting the distance you've travelled to get here.

At some luxury resorts, once you've had your fill of pool time, you're keen to leave its soporific bubble. Others make it a struggle to venture out. The newly rebranded Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai falls decidedly into the latter category, even though enticing excursions await in and around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Hoi An that's a shuttle ride away.

Everything about the 100-villa resort, long considered one of Vietnam's finest, encourages you to slow down and revel in tropical utopia. From the luxurious villas with outdoor bathrooms where you can shower under the stars, through to the ethereal spa with dreamy treatments like the Nam Hai Earth song or Rose Infinity Facial, this is a place that inspires you to savour the moment.

Originally designed by renowned French architect Reda Amalou (also responsible for the latest spruce-up), Four Seasons took over the iconic 12-year-old resort at the end of 2016. They've taken the best of everything the Nam Hai had to offer, and somehow made it even better.

There's a new cooking academy, a brand new Anti-Gravity pavilion, refreshed resort and hotel villas including the addition of eight new family villas (complete with adorable miniature size bathrobes and plush toys). A chic new beach bar fronts the sand; while the beach and water sports program has been enhanced (jet blading anyone?). Kids are not forgotten either, with a new kids club with its own pool and mini sun lounges, special baby menus and bikes for young guests to either ride themselves, or tag along in a trailer behind mum and dad. There's also a kids culinary school and pool that caters exclusively to families.

Spread across 35 hectares, the low level resort features pagoda style roofs, palm trees strung with lanterns and reflective ponds embracing traditional Vietnamese architecture. The lush grounds, which feature the resort's own temple and a staggering 4500 coconut palms, are tended by an army of 100 gardeners, including a dedicated coconut cutter. One of my favourite things was using the complimentary bicycle to meander through the tranquil grounds.

Unlike some flop and drop resorts, the Nam Hai offers something for every type of traveller – those who want to do nothing, those who want to be active and those that like a bit of both. Lose an entire afternoon in the new Earth Spa which surrounds a serene lotus pond, grab that book you've been meaning to read and head for a hammock swung between palm trees. Alternatively take flight with an anti-gravity class (a signature for Four Seasons), or cycle through the surrounding rice fields where buffalos graze and farmers in conical hats tend to their crops. Every treatment in the spa starts with quartz crystal alchemy bowls – bathing the senses in healing vibrations and aligning your internal rhythm to the "song" of the earth. If you don't leave the eight-suite spa feeling like a million dollars, frankly I don't know what will do it for you.

Wellness plays a big part of the newly rebranded resort, with a concept inspired by the mindfulness-based teachings of Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh​. Building on the mindful approach, the resort launched its first annual meditation retreat this year. Daily mediation sessions are also offered along with yoga or tai chi. Sometimes you may find you're the only one that shows up, meaning you effectively enjoy your own private class. Wellness options are also available on all food and drink menus.

Advertisement

Speaking of food, the Nam Hai takes the saying breakfast like a king literally. You could spend hours sampling everything from the cao lau noodles, the steaming bun bo hue or the decadent truffle omelette. Order a freshly squeezed juice followed by a Vietnamese coffee and ease slowly into the day. You should enjoy lunch poolside at least once and be sure to gather for sundowners at the lantern-lit bar where talented bartenders wheel out a gin trolley with an astonishing range of condiments. The Nha Trang lobster night (Mondays) is also a must.

Days are punctuated by swims in one of the Nam Hai's pools overlooking the beach, which is commonly known as China Beach. It's poolside that the Four Seasons legendary service comes to the fore – cold towels and iced water are swiftly delivered. Iced treats are sent out intermittently; sunglasses cleaned. No wonder it's so hard to prise yourself off the sun lounge.

When you can drag yourself away, the resort's signature tours and experiences make it worth your while. See a wet rice farm, ride a buffalo and see traditional fishing as the sun sets along the Cua Dai River with Jack Tran Tours. Explore rural life, or join a fun Hoi An street food tour with Vespa Adventures – kind of like a progressive dinner on wheels. Alternatively, there's nothing like exploring the streets of Hoi An's ancient old town, followed by lunch along the river at Mango Mango. Try the passionfruit daiquiri, which is like summer in a glass and one of the prettiest cocktails I've ever seen. If you'd want to get something made, Hoi An is famous for tailors. Yaly Couture (where the Four Seasons shuttle drops guests off in Hoi An) comes highly recommended for custom-made outfits.

Returning to the resort is like being gathered into a soft gentle embrace, and as much as I enjoyed going out, I couldn't wait to return to my villa. Even though I was staying in an entry level villa, there's nothing inferior about these luxurious rooms with their sunken eggshell lacquer bath, and king-sized four poster bed on a raised platform encased in sheer mosquito netting. The outdoor patio looking out over hundreds of coconut palms is a particularly lovely spot to enjoy a morning coffee as day breaks.

On our final night I gather with other guests at the Earth Spa for the "Good Night Kiss to the Earth" ritual which starts on dusk. Staff wearing traditional ao dai instruct us to write our own love letter to the earth and float it on the lotus pond with a candle as powerful tones from crystal bowls reverberate the night air. This enchanting ceremony is a special way not only to finish the day, but to end our stay at this faultless property. Before I've even left, I'm already planning to return.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/Vietnam

fourseasons.com/hoian

vietnamairlines.com

STAY

A one-bedroom villa at the Four Seasons Nam Hai, Hoi An is priced from $US625 a night (low season) plus tax including breakfast however special offers are available including pay two, stay three and pay three, stay four deals. Pool villa packages include return transfers, premium Wi-Fi and butler service.

FLY

Vietnam Airlines offers daily flights between Sydney and Melbourne and Ho Chi Minh with onward connections to Da Nang International Airport. Transfers to Four Seasons The Nam Hai take around 30 minutes. Vietnam Airlines' improved premium economy class is excellent value and often costs not much more than an economy ticket. Perks of premium economy include separate check-in counters, express lane for immigration and security, priority boarding, and an upgraded food and beverage offering.

VISAS

Australian travellers need a visa for Vietnam. It's advisable to prearrange your visa before you travel at the Vietnamese consulate in Sydney or Melbourne, however a visa approval letter can be arranged online, however it does take extra time to organise on arrival in Ho Chi Minh. If applying online you will need to bring two passport size photos, the approval letter and a completed NA1 form.

Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Vietnam Airlines.