Brigitte Bardot in St. Tropez. Beyonce in St. Barth’s. George Clooney on Lake Como.
There’s a reason celebrities flock to these destinations. They’re exclusive. They’re gorgeous. They’re either hard or expensive to get to or sometimes even both. They’re an unreal slice of the luxe life where people go to get away from real life, even when real life is already pretty sweet.
Although I love posh hotels, I rarely write about them as a destination. I’m making an exception for the #1 rated hotel in Vietnam. Though it’s been months since I stayed, looking through the photos for this post brought back gorgeous memories, too luscious not to share.
Set on Ninh Van Bay, on a peninsula across from Nha Trang, Vietnam, An Lam Villas sits on a picture perfect horseshoe bay and has all the earmarks of a celebrity hideaway.
Hard to get to? Check. It’s 20kms north of the busy beach town of Nha Trang. After staying with some friends for the first few days, I hopped on a motorcycle taxi to find the private jetty. My driver had never heard of the place, but he knew the area. I had to check my GPS to make sure we were on the right road as we drove past soaring mountains and lush rice fields.
Finally making it to the tiny nondescript town where the private sala is located, I must have been quite the sight, hopping off a jalopy of a motorbike, dusty from the long drive. A cool towel, some almond cakes and a refreshing drink signaled a most welcome change. A ten minute speedboat ride whisked me across the bay, where staff were lined up on the pier to welcome me.
I heard that there was a Six Senses in the same bay, but I never saw it from An Lam.
I was assigned Phong, my personal butler for the stay, who showed me to my beachfront villa with its own plunge pool and living room, in addition to the two bedrooms. The bathroom was larger than most hotel rooms, with a swing (!) and an indoor shower as well as an outdoor stone bathtub and shower in the enclosed garden.
It was Sophie’s Choice between the beach villa or the three-level Hill Rock Villas, perfectly nestled in the surrounding lush forest, each one unique, built to blend in with the boulders and trees. This is your childhood tree house on crack.
One day I’ll have to find out what it’d feel like to wake up to life in the trees, with your own deck and plunge pool overlooking the bay down below.
Phong kindly took me on a golf cart tour of the 65 ha property, past the library and gym and yoga platform, the lagoon villas and the well-tended chef’s garden full of the freshest herbs.
The rest of my stay was spent sorting out problems of the One Percent. Laze around my private plunge pool or take a dip in the infinity pool, perfectly mirroring the blue skies and white clouds above?
Maybe take a nap in one of the gauzy gazebos, the likes I’d only seen in glossy travel magazines?
Or take a walk on the long, perfectly horseshoe shaped bay with pancake-flat emerald waters?
Or maybe just sit and stare at the sun setting on the abandoned lobster shacks dotting the bay with the rolling hills of the mainland providing a dramatic backdrop?
I was a bit anxious that being in such an isolated place meant being chained to the one on-site restaurant. I needn’t have worried. Chef Briony Crowder (Australian) coaxed every bit of flavor from her treasure trove of local and imported ingredients, from freshly caught lobster, sea urchin and grouper sourced from the area’s fishermen to using locally cultivated sea salt to cure her own meats. After hearing Chef Briony’s cooking philosophy, I was expecting to be wowed. What I wasn’t expecting was the variety of freshly baked breads that accompanied every meal.
With only 35 luxury villas, mealtimes were the only occasion I was likely to see other guests. When every villa has its own pool, it’s surprisingly hard to leave your own little world, even if a perfect beach beckons. Like me, they probably hung out the “Busy Relaxing” sign, perfectly content to vacay like a rock star.
What do you think? Can a hotel be a destination in itself?
Beach villa doubles at An Lam Villas Ninh Van Bay start from USD 600, including breakfast