“The weather in Vietnam is like a teenager,” said Linh Dinh, our waitress, while pouring the wine. “It starts off sunny, and then goes bad.” But not bad enough to keep my father and I from enjoying dinner al fresco before the East Vietnam Sea. We had the outside seating to ourselves – the other diners, most of whom were from elsewhere in Asia, preferred to stay indoors.
But for we heat-starved Brits, it was a balmy mid-20s, notwithstanding the odd flashes of lightning in the clouds, so we stayed out under the palm fronds to enjoy the full moon skulking among the clouds and the waves lapping up onto the beach. Bobbing on the invisible sea, fishing boats were strung out like pearls, their lights shining bright to attract squid.
Out came the grilled pork skewers with peanut sauce, the duck salad with young bananas and figs, followed by sour seafood soup, prawns braised in young coconut juice, wok-fried beef in five spices, steamed vegetables, seafood fried rice, and fresh fruit for dessert – all for an alarming 950,000 Vietnamese dong per person. Actually, that’s about £30, and was well worth it.
The modernist-style Hyatt Regency in Danang, where we were staying, is located roughly halfway up Vietnam’s coast. And while there are no direct flights from Britain to Danang, it is an easy two hours’ onward journey from Hong Kong, which makes it perfect for a city-plus-beach break, allowing you to take in two fabulous cultures in one go.
There isn’t much to see in Danang itself. But the resort, opened in 2011, sits on the white sand Non Nuoc Beach, with the Marble Mountains sketched out in pastel-blue in the background. For those who get restless after too much relaxation, the colourful Unesco World Heritage town of Hoi An (see below) is only 30 minutes away. The temple ruins at My Son and the old imperial city of Hue are further afield, but each can still be done in a day, just about.
That’s if you can bear to pull yourself away from the pool at the resort, of course, of which there are five to choose from. My favourite was the tranquil, adults-only pool at the VIE Spa. But to get to it, you must first traverse a winding path through an ornate oriental garden with treatment rooms leading off to the sides for, perhaps, a “mountain air bath”, involving a massage and a soak in eucalyptus, cajuput and sandalwood oils.
The VIE Spa cosmetics extend into the en-suite bathrooms of the hotel’s bedrooms, which are no less indulgent – they range from standard rooms with big, firm beds, to suites and apartment-like “residences”, complete with kitchenettes and stunning views out over the sea. Then, tucked away in the corner of the grounds, close to the beach, are the villas, each with their own private pool.
If you do find yourself spending the whole day lounging by the pool – and to be honest, who could blame you – make sure you stick around for the evening, too. Amid large, round, flaming grills and live music, the Pool House restaurant, run by the impossibly cheerful Duy Ho, serves up a spectacular seafood barbecue of fresh oysters, snails, fish of every colour, and, of course, Vietnam’s famous pho soup. A whole day spent relaxing is, after all, hungry work.
• From VND4,600,000 a night in February – see Hyatt.com.
Take a trip out to the historic town of Hoi An
Three times a day the Hyatt Regency Danang ferries guests in air-conditioned comfort to the Unesco World Heritage town of Hoi An, located half an hour away. The town’s old quarter has been preserved as a living exhibition to when Hoi An served as an important port between the 16th and 19th centuries.
During that time, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and French traders left their mark in Hoi An’s varied architecture, ranging from the Japanese Covered Bridge, built in 1593, to the Cantonese Assembly Hall dating from 1885, and, of course, the many balconies and shuttered buildings of Hoi An’s excellent cafés, which serve as a reminder of Vietnam’s more recent French colonial heritage. Tickets to most of the sights cost 120,000 dong, and can be bought at the entrance to the old quarter.