What better way to break the cycle of first-time travel after almost three years of being stuck in Thailand, than a trip to a new resort in Vietnam. Da Nang is often seen as the weekend beach retreat for the Vietnamese, with its never-ending coastline and casinos. Though further up the coast, an hour's drive away, lies an unspoilt beachfront paradise -- Hoiana, which is also Vietnam's first integrated resort.
Enter the sprawling grounds of Hoiana, home to four luxurious resorts, and into the cosy confines of New World Hoiana Hotel, which is the only one of the four open at the moment. Its secluded countryside setting, fronted by 4km of idyllic beach, with an adjacent world-class links golf course and a casino, entices you into its interiors. However, before all that, it's the massive art installation in the lobby that captivates all, me included. The two-storeyed "Wishing Tree" is made of 5,680 handmade glass pieces and is the highlight of a daily show (every 30 minutes from 6.30-9pm) that celebrates nature through light and music. Do not be distracted by the casino entrance to the right. There will be plenty of time to try your luck.
(Photos courtesy of Hoiana Resort & Golf)
The rooms at Hoiana are designed with contemporary flair and boast spacious interiors with generously-sized balconies -- especially good for the stunning sunrise over the East Sea, lounging with a good book (or laptop in my case) in the afternoon or sipping a sundowner to cap off the day. It is worth waking up between 5-5.30am for the sunrise as it will set the tone for the rest of the day -- sunny and cheerful. You can always cosy back into bed once all the IG photos have been taken and revel in views of the endless ocean horizon and a glimpse of Cham Island from the bed or bathtub.
Swim, sun and sleep is the name of the game at Hoiana and making sure these remain your priority is the huge free-form swimming pool and the large beachfront laid out with larger-than-life-sized IG props. The waterslide in the kid's pool offers joy for the child in all of us and I highly encourage a go at it. The beauty I found in Vietnam is that no matter the time of day or night, regardless of the sky above, the water is always warm and there is no initial shock as one dives in. If you're getting wet for IG moments, make your way to the 16th floor for the infinity pool at the aptly-name restaurant and bar, The Edge, which is also the perfect spot for sundowners. Why be on ground level when you can be towering over spectacular views?!
The allure of resorts such as Hoiana is the multiple dining options, making it difficult to leave the premises. The resort has no less than 10 restaurants that tick all the boxes for vacation indulgence, from the poolside Cove Bar & Grill featuring grilled steaks, fresh-catch seafood and expertly-crafted cocktails using the homegrown Sampan Rum, to an all-day café serving Mediterranean cuisine. "Wake up and smell the coffee" has never been a more apt phrase in Vietnam as everyone knows there is nothing like the strong Vietnamese coffee to inject a spring in your step. The Terrace, which serves a buffet breakfast spread and yes, that includes pho, is also the all-day dining cafe serving Mediterranean fare. Though you're never far away from Korean BBQ at Obaltan or Chinese fine dining at Lucky Court, which gets its name from being located right outside the casino. There is also a food court to tickle your fancy, should no restaurant lure you in.
If golfing is your relaxation then head "next door" to the resort's 18-hole Robert Trent Jones II golf course. The Hoiana Shores course is a links design with a play through rolling dunes and Casuarina trees, with six holes at the ocean's edge. Hole 16 is dramatically positioned within steps of the ocean spray and makes a good pic, too. Its clubhouse is rather dramatic looking and is one of the largest in Asia.
If you want an evening away from the resort, the Unesco World Heritage Hoi An old town is a 15-minute drive away and is irresistibly charming and remarkably preserved if marred by touristic fare and commercialisation. Despite the crowds, what draws you deeper and deeper into the winding alleyways are the lights from the quintessential Vietnamese lanterns, which deck the shops' entrances. Enjoy a lantern boat ride along the Hoai River, taking in the sights and smells of the bustling town. Don't miss the Japanese bridge, also known as Cau Pagoda (Chùa Cau), which was built in the 17th century and named after the people who constructed it. It is such an iconic symbol of Hoi An ancient town, that it is printed on the 20,000 dong banknote!
Another must-do activity while in Hoi An is to take a "spin" through the Bay Mau Coconut Forest on the Thu Bon river in a traditional coconut basket boat. You may need a lie-down after this (I ain't spilling the beans!). Though a relaxing afternoon can be spent in the 16th century Thanh Ha Pottery Village on the banks of the same river.
When the tagline says "Every great moment starts at Hoiana Resort & Golf", you know it's not a stretch while at the resort. Until September end, the "Summer Holiday Staycation" offers families a US$265 nett per night for two nights in one of the all-suite accommodations at Hoiana Hotel & Suites, inclusive of breakfast for two guests, dining credits and more. Visit hoiana.com.