Published: August 2008World Class: Lodges + Escapes

A Sense of Place: Vietnam

Old Vietnam uncovered; front-row seats at Tanzania's great chimp picnic; the wild woods of Maine.

Text by Global Travel Editor Costas Christ
Photograph Courtesy of Kiattipong Panchee/Six Senses Hideaway Ninh Van Bay
Far from the junks and bustle, untouched Indochina reigns serene

Halong bay has more than 500 junks cruising its steepled islands. Phu Quoc’s forests have been leased to mass tour operators. And a new highway cuts through once idyllic China Beach between Da’Nang and Hoi An, feeding a growing resort frenzy. Vietnam’s tourism economy is in overdrive. So where can the country’s undisturbed wilderness and rich cultural traditions be found? Thankfully, old Vietnam is thriving at Six Senses Hideaway at Ninh Van Bay, a 58-room eco-retreat 20 minutes by boat from Nha Trang ($661; sixsenses.com). Its local staff, who refer to each other as “hosts,” cultivate Vietnamese herbs in organic gardens on-site and, at the rock-and-thatch restaurant, take pride in spicing traditional dishes like hai san kho to—seafood simmered in a clay pot. Dirt trails connect the rooms, and bikes are on hand for rides between them. But despite the palm ceilings and bamboo walls, accommodations are far from rustic. These open-air villas come with a temperature-controlled, 24-bottle wine cellar and a CD sound system. The hosts, however, are the real amenity. They guide visitors to nearby villages, arrange kayaking expeditions across the bay’s coral seascape, and lead treks into the surrounding forest steeps. The point here: Don’t panic. Vietnam, as it was, still is.

Need to Know: No joke, a growing number of travelers are being struck and injured by car and motorcycle stampedes in Saigon and Hanoi. When crossing the street, proceed with caution.

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