One might argue no place across Vietnam’s booming tourist landscape has changed as rapidly as the city of Danang. Known for decades as little more than a backwater town, the coastal port has blossomed over the past 20 years into a clean, beautiful and relaxing vacation hub – just a stone’s throw away from three Unesco World Heritage Sites, stunning marble mountains and striking views of the glistening South China Sea.
The entire region is rich in natural beauty, and it was a quiet plot of land hidden in the mountains that stole the heart of legendary architect Bill Bensley – the visionary behind the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai, The St. Regis Bali, Indigo Pearl Phuket and The Siam Bangkok Hotel.
A protégé of world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, much of Bensley’s notoriety is rooted in his deep, almost obsessive, appreciation of Asian cultures, and each property he builds is an homage to a region that captured his imagination.
In 2005, he found himself in an unspoiled mountainous cove along the Son Tra Peninsula. After jumping off a rock into the sea, swimming and looking around, he knew he had found his spot. Danang, he decided, would be the location of his Vietnam masterpiece, The Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort.
He began the long, arduous task of travelling deep into the lesser known regions of the country to chase the ethos of Vietnamese culture for inspiration.
Years later, Bensley’s design emerged exactly as investors had hoped: a brilliant combination of traditional Vietnamese design, history, myth and dash of Bensley’s own characteristic whimsy – and it would eventually be named the “world’s leading luxury resort” at the World Travel Awards 2015.
Peeking out from Danang’s 30-kilometre coastline, the four-level property starts high on the mountainside, twisting and turning down to the 700-metre private beach below – each level named Heaven, Sky, Earth and Sea based on its elevation.
While the city is just a few minutes away, the orientation and location of the property makes it feel more like a private island – just the water, mountains, trees and you.
All 200 suites and villas face the South China Sea, offering incredible views of the sunrise as you sip your morning coffee or the sunset with a glass of wine. Wandering the property feels like a micro-adventure through Vietnam’s rich architectural dictionary – Buddhist temples, palaces, imperial tombs and tiny villages.
Hanging lanterns, dragon motifs, elephant sculptures, humble village details and art inspired by indigenous Vietnamese cultures are tastefully sprinkled throughout every walkway, passage and staircase. It’s an elegant combination of the country’s high and low culture, and an absolute pleasure to stroll.
More Than a Pretty Face
However, romanticising about the hotel’s brilliant design will only keep a person entertained for so long, and Intercontinental brass have enlisted some serious firepower to boost the resort’s amenities.
Its French restaurant, La Maison 1888, is helmed by three-Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire; its spa facility is operated by renowned Thai brand HARNN, and its manicure-pedicure studio is a partnership with the legendary Bastien Gonzalez.
Its flagship restaurant Citron holds the fort for day-to-day eating, offering a substantial à la carte breakfast and Vietnam’s famous regional fare for lunch and dinner, and the full range of standard amenities you’ve come to expect from a luxury resort are also there – swimming pool, bar, gym and several themed lounges.
While these amenities don’t leap off the page, the villas and suites certainly do. The 80-square-metre Son Tra Terrace Suite was nothing but relaxing and pleasant. There was ample space, elegant décor, thoughtful touches of Vietnamese culture and a million-dollar view.
The rooms don’t provide over-the-top opulence, but do offer over-the-top comfort and a place where you can effortlessly unwind. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
In many ways, the The Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort reflects the spirit of Danang in a nutshell. It’s not a fast-paced backpacker’s haven, and it’s not meant to be. It’s a place to slow down, relax and disconnect. The hotel was envisioned in a moment when Bill Bensley was awe-struck by a secluded paradise.
They built the hotel to capture that feeling in a bottle, and did a very fine job.
Flying to Danang
Bangkok Airways has recently launched a direct service from Bangkok to Danang. Flights operate four days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) on a 138-seater Airbus A319 aircraft. All passengers can enjoy access to the Bangkok Airways boutique lounge at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.