By Charmaine Hibbert
Travelling to South East Asia has always been a dream of mine Ė Iíve read lots of books about the region over the years and planned countless routes and excursions in my mind Ė so when the opportunity arose to experience to Vietnam, letís just say I was the first passenger at check-in!
I knew Iíd be instantly captivated by Hoi An, and I couldnít wait to see what this charming old town had to offer. Itís one of Vietnamís most popular tourist destinations and I can see why. For a start itís steeped in history Ė a running theme through my reviews as you will see, it stems from my fascination for people, places and stories.
Once a busy commercial port, Hoi Anís trade was across Asia and with Europe.
Most of its traders were from China and Japan, and if you take a stroll through the town youíll see that the architecture has a mix of influences from both countries, although they are still of a traditional Vietnamese design.
Today Hoi An has become a touristís haven, and I can assure you that youíll be blown away by its remarkable hospitality and traditions. It has built up a reputation over the last two decades as a place that offers up something for everyone.
In 1999, UNESCO formally recognised Hoi An as a world heritage site, and amazingly it is the only place in Vietnam to still have many of its original streets and buildings intact, despite damage inflicted during periods of unrest and conflict.
Today the old town centre is full of hotels, restaurants and shops where you can buy made-to-measure outfits that will be delivered to your hotel with materials ranging from beautiful silks to hand-woven cotton.
If the chance arises, the famous Full Moon festival is definitely worth experiencing. Not to be confused with the Full Moon parties in Thailand, this celebration is held every fourteenth day of the lunar month. The old town shuts down to motorised vehicles and is transformed to its traditional roots. Look out for all those wonderful lanterns.
The Nam Hai Hotel is a breathtakingly beautiful venue and offers the ultimate in rest and relaxation, so be sure to immerse yourself in pure, unadulterated bliss. In an ideal location 30 km south of Da Nang and only 11 km north of Hoi An, itís situated across 35 acres of a beautiful stretch of unspoilt, white sandy beach. Undoubtedly one of the most stunning and most picturesque hotels Iíve ever experienced.
With 60 beautifully designed, one-bedroom villas and 40 pool villas ranging from one to five bedrooms, you really are spoilt for choice.
Each room is complete with an indoor and outdoor sitting area, boasting a private landscaped garden with an outside shower, which you just have to try Ė thereís nothing like it. There are also spectacular views of the East Sea and nearby Cham Islands.
The hotel has many signature features, ranging from two gourmet restaurants (the food is exquisite) to spas in which the treatments are a must. After your morning yoga session, just walking into the spa treatment rooms gives you a feeling of tranquillity Ė feel that tension drift away! There is a full range of treatments including stimulating body polishes, romantic bathing ceremonies, pampering facials, therapeutic massages and detoxifying body wraps, and they only use botanical ingredients.
If that isnít enough, there is also a health club, tennis club and separate club for the kids, plus three beachfront swimming pools. After all that, youíll feel like you need another full body massage with hot stones!
The Nam Hai is created and managed by GHM which was founded in 1992 by Adrian Zecha and Hans Jenni and has gone on to become one of the worldís leading players in hospitality. In keeping with GHM tradition, it provides guests with a culturally inviting and extremely magical experience, while keeping all the charms of Vietnamese hospitality. GHMís slogan is Ďa style to rememberí Ė and you get just that.