Serene Refuge on South China Sea Vietnam’s Nam-Hai Resort offers deluxe accommodations near UNESCO site

By Ron Bernthal

Many of the Nam Hai villas (above) come with a butler, private pool, high tech sound system and WI-Fi. (Photo: The Nam Hai/GHM Hotels)

During the day, the manicured grounds at the five-star Nam Hai resort were exceptionally quiet. Gardeners and housekeepers used electric golf carts to move about the property, maneuvering across lush lawns and through palm groves with hardly a sound. Women in conical straw hats worked quietly in the colorful and sweet-smelling gardens. Guests kept to themselves, often staying within their walled private villas, content to just bathe au naturale in their private pool, or walk along the wide, empty beach collecting the fragile pink shells that floated in on the warm currents of the South China Sea.

The center of The Nam Hai resort at sunset, with palm trees leading down to the South China Sea. (Photo: The Nam Hai/GHM Hotels)

I did hear noises at night, however. When the sun went down, and the sky became inky black, the little frogs outside my villa would begin to sing lovely songs, which reminded me of the ubiquitous and charming Coqui frogs of Puerto Rico. And the sea, perhaps 100 yards away, could be heard through the open windows, the moon-lit waves hitting the beach every few seconds, like gentle rhythmic breaths.

Vietnamese girl stands on wind-swept China Beach, near Nam Hai Resort (Photo: Ron Bernthal)

Although I was traveling in Vietnam, halfway between Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and Hanoi, I often felt like I was in Bali. My bedroom accommodations, like the other 100 villas, which ranged from one- to five-bedrooms, contained a very high platform bed set under a canopy of mosquito netting. The floors were of blue-gray stone from a local quarry, the furniture a dark-stained wood that looked like teak. There was an indoor and outdoor shower, beautiful hand-made screens, ceiling fans and air-conditioning, and soothing New Age music that could be played on the villa’s Bose sound system. And because the resort caters to a high-end business clientele, there was also Wi-Fi, two flat screen TV’s, and several I-pod docking stations, an interesting, and totally seductive, juxtaposition of Western technology and Balinese spirituality.

Traditional Vietnamese fishing basket on the beach at Nam Hai Resort. (Photo: Ron Bernthal)

Most of the villa rates include your own butler. Mine was a young man who was omnipresent, lurking behind doorways and around corners to make sure I would not have to lift a towel or search for a bottle of water. It was a bit unnerving, although I am sure most guests had no trouble getting used to the service. The resort was designed by French architect Reda Amalou, and Indonesian interior designer Jaya Ibrahim, and is spectacular. There is an open (no walls) lobby pavilion, a beautifully designed restaurant with soft lighting and wonderful European and Asian cuisine, and an equally impressive spa with eight private treatment villas surrounded by a lotus pond. Several infinity pools are scattered around the sweep of luminescent green lawns leading to the sea.


The Nam Hai is located close to the historic city of Hoi An, a UNESCO heritage site, and to the airport at Danang, a one hour flight from Hanoi or Saigon. This area of Vietnam, often called China Beach, is where War-era American bunkers and aircraft hangars can still be seen. The Nam Hai offers a luxurious base for exploring local historic sites and photographing nearby rice paddies and water buffalo.

The Nam Hai, Hoi An
Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village
Dien Ban District
Quang Nam Province
Tel 84 510 940 000; Fax 84 510 940 999


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