Vietnam's premium hideaway

From a distance, the Evason Hideaway & Six Senses Spa looks like some sort of Robinson Crusoe wonderland. Located in a remote bay in Southern Vietnam and accessible only by boat, this hideaway is not your typical beachfront community of bamboo huts. What sets it apart from other eco-retreats is its zealous dedication to luxury.

Upon my arrival, Trâm (pronounced Cham), my personal "butler," greets me at the dock with a smile as wide as the resort's crescent bay. Goodbye Jeevesian stereotypes! Trâm – a chipper young woman who helps me with everything from meal planning to choosing spa treatments – is more of an ambassador of fun than a servant.

And as we wend our way through the thick tropical vegetation toward my two-storey beach villa, I have to admit that Trâm is also an indispensable guide.

Villa with a view

There are several types of villas from which to choose. Some are nestled into the hill, others are built around the boulders at the water's edge and still others, like the beachfront villa I am staying in, are just steps from the white sand. Lucky me. All of the villas are spacious (at least 1,600 square feet), have private infinity dunk pools and come equipped with personalized iPods, DVD players, stereo sound throughout, a private outdoor shower and a well-stocked bar – from Vietnamese beer to Henkell champagne.

The enormous bathroom opens onto a private garden and, upstairs, the tree-house-style living room looks out over the picturesque bay. Only the bedroom has glass windows that shut – perfect for keeping the cooled air in and any mosquitoes out. Every detail has been carefully considered with particular attention given to minimizing environmental impact (even the hairdryer is eco-friendly). But, as I soon find out, the best thing about the Hideaway is outside: the coral reef at my doorstep.

My life aquatic

I waste no time slipping into my swimsuit and heading for the water. I get to know the reef by swimming straight into it and slamming my knee against the coral. Ouch. Not exactly the most elegant initiation, but I glance around and I'm relieved to see that there are no witnesses. There is, however, plenty of activity below the water. Standing chest high in the water, I am still rubbing my skinned knee when a school of tiny silvery fish leap out of the water in unison, just inches from nose. Suddenly, I am feeling very Jacques Cousteau.

Trâm encourages me to pursue my new passion for underwater exploration by signing up for a snorkelling expedition the next day. A colourful fishing boat whisks me to a nearby reef just off a long stretch of uninhabited land. These unspoiled waters, not far from the city of Nha Trang, have helped make Vietnam Southeast Asia's new diving mecca. My guide points out angelfish, butterfly fish, a barracuda, a flutemouth and a few sea cucumbers. After two hours, I am absolutely hooked. Back at the resort, I keep my snorkel equipment close at hand, and every hour or so find myself checking out the action around what I now consider to be my reef.

Hidden pleasures

There are several things you will not need during your Evason Hideaway vacation: keys, formal attire, clock. The atmosphere is so relaxed that you don't even need to remember when you are scheduled to eat since your personal butler will be sure to escort you to the dining room in good time.

Those who prefer not to leave the resplendence of their private homes can have meals brought to them. Better yet: Meals can be prepared at your villa. The Hideaway, not surprisingly, attracts a lot of honeymooners and reclusive celebrities.

“We treat everyone the same way,” says Trâm, explaining the resort's respect for people's privacy. “When you come here, nobody knows.”

Back by my reef, I float on the surface of the water as if I were on an air mattress. There, bobbing among my fishy friends in the open water, I decide there's something profoundly calming about being secreted away.

Other resorts in Vietnam

The Hideaway's mainland affiliate, the Ana Mandara Resort & Spa, is an oasis of warm welcome in Nha Trang, a fun and exciting beach town. Further up the coast, the five-star Furama Resort Danang is set on a strip of flour-fine sand known as China Beach. And, opening sometime in 2006, the Ana Mandara Villas Dalat & Spa promises to be another exceptional experience.

(Dominique Ritter is the editor-in-chief of onAir.)

Getting There

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January 2006