Four Seasons Resort Hoi An and the Cult of Well-being

With the end of the pandemic coming into sight, travel in 2021 is going to be all about getting back to Nature, touchless tech, health and wellness, and smaller footprints and bigger hearts, all while maintaining a comfortable distance from fellow guests.

If there ever was a property tailor-made for the pandemic world and beyond, it’s the Four Seasons Resort (The Nam Hai), Hoi An. Previously the uber-luxurious The Nam Hai, the all-villa property was rebranded into Vietnam’s only Four Seasons at the end of 2016 (with plans for a second Four Seasons to open by Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake in 2023). Guests will find the same gorgeous touches (think mosaic’ed eggshell bathtubs and exquisite villas inspired by the Imperial garden houses of Hue), but with the signature hospitality for which Four Seasons is internationally renowned.

As a nod to local culture, the property has taken inspiration from the Buddhist teachings of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, known to some as the Father of Mindfulness, weaving a sense of spiritual serenity into every facet of the Four Seasons experience. However, instead of being in-your-face preachy, the almost imperceptible touches serve to enhance the stay for both sinners and saints, the Secular and the Believer.

The Journey

“Many of us are lost. We work too hard, our lives are too busy; we lose ourselves in consumption and distraction of all kinds and have become increasingly lost, lonely, or sick. Many of us live very isolated lives. We’re no longer in touch with ourselves, our family, our ancestors, the Earth, or the wonders of life around us. This alienation is a kind of illness that has become an epidemic. We don’t realize that it’s not fame, wealth, or power that will make us happy, but our level of mindful awareness.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

From the moment we hop into the sleek black leather interior of the resort’s Range Rover, we know we’re in for a treat. After settling in, the driver thoughtfully asks if we would like music or a phone charger and lets us know there’s complimentary Wi-Fi on board. The 30 minutes from Danang International Airport to the property fly by, spent checking out photos of the resort, the spa menu, and available amenities on the provided tablet and mentally penciling in a class at the Nam Hai Cooking Academy.

We soon pull in through the gates and enter a true oasis of swaying palm trees (4,500 to be exact) by the sea, a short enough drive (11km) to duck into the Ancient Town for a brief outing, but far enough from the madding crowd to be a true hedonistic hideaway.

The Villa

“There are those of us who live in very comfortable houses. You may have a roof over your head, a comfortable bed to sleep in, sufficient food to eat, and yet still not feel at home. All of us are looking for our true home, the place where we feel safe and sheltered.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

We check in to our villa, one of the hundred resort and pool villas spread throughout the property, and are immediately impressed by the craftsmanship seen in the intricately carved wood accents, gorgeously inlaid bedside tub, raised bed platform (a throwback to imperial times), sunken sitting area, and beautiful outdoor shower set within a spacious, walled landscaped garden.

While many resorts incorporate elements of Vietnam into the aesthetic, the Four Seasons Nam Hai feels different. “With other properties, it feels skin deep, but here it’s ingrained into the brand’s DNA,” says Resort Manager Bryan Ruch. “You can see the culture integrated into the property, like in our eggshell lacquerware and the big belly urns throughout the property. Instead of being cosmetic, it feels native and ingrained as opposed to an afterthought.”

But there’s more here that turns the villa into a home, like the trio of essential oils (named Stability, Creativity, and Non-Judgement after some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s lessons from Nature), and a singing bowl designed to bring body and mind back to the here and now.

“All of these aspects are a way of taking mindfulness from a complicated concept and integrating it into everyday activities,” explains Bryan. “A lot of these components resonate with guests, even if they may not be into it. It can just be a feeling.”

The sinner in us simply likes the tranquil blend of cedarwood, rosewood, and grapefruit (otherwise known as “Stability”), and we find the lingering echo of the singing bowl a great way to mark the start of a new day.

Connectivity

The Four Seasons embraces Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of “interbeing”, a notion that says each of us has a deep interconnection with everything else, including the Earth, ourselves, and others.

In addition to time spent connecting with each other on quiet walks along shaded paths, we virtually connect through the Four Seasons app, one of the only industry platforms powered by real people on property. We find ourselves using it often and love the immediate response for everything from calling for an electric buggy during a light shower and ordering room service to checking our airport transfers and booking spa appointments.

We also sense the interconnected-ness of the resort with the global Four Seasons brand. Despite months of having no community transmission (when we visited in mid-December), the resort had implemented the brand’s global Lead With Care health and safety program informed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International and the early experience of Four Seasons Hotel New York housing high-risk medical personnel. That meant everyone from massage therapists down to gardeners appropriately masked up.


Mindfulness

“When you open the door and go out into the fresh air, you get in touch with the air and the ground and all the elements around you. Each mindful step taken with awareness is a step taken in freedom. Every step is an opportunity to celebrate the miracle of life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Spending much of 2020 trapped within the four walls of home, it feels great to be outside and active. We clear the day with nothing on the agenda other than lazing on the 1km-long sandy beach and wandering the lush grounds, trading the sound of horns and construction for the chirping of birds and the rhythmic waves rolling in. It feels good to disconnect from our devices and reconnect with the Mother Nature at this seaside sanctuary.

Eschewing the electric buggies available to ferry guests around, we opt for the complimentary bicycles thoughtfully stationed at each villa and cycle around the 35-hectare property, circling the three infinity pools (family and Olympic-sized) and the organic gardens, and taking in the sea air as the bicycles bump along over cobbled paths.

Mind and Body

“We tend to think of the Earth as inanimate matter because we’ve become alienated from it. We are even alienated from our own bodies. We spend many hours every day forgetting that we even have a body. Thich Nhat Hanh

Quarantine has a way of wreaking havoc on mind and body, so we schedule treatments at the resort’s award-winning Heart of the Earth Spa, rated one of the Five Best Spas in the World by Condé Nast Traveller. We had visited the spa the night before for the Goodnight Kiss to the Earth, an evening ritual open to all guests involving singing (both by humans and crystal bowls), and the surprisingly cathartic act of writing a personal message to be released in a floating candle-lit lantern onto the spa’s own lotus lagoon.

This day, however, we opt for the Nam Hai Vietnamese Treatment, a delicious marriage of scrub (sea salt, lime, mint, and coconut oil) and massage. We’re led to one of eight spacious spa villas where we have a year’s worth of stress kneaded from of our bodies to the tune of singing bowls and deft elbows.

Afterwards, we step out onto the overwater relaxation pavilion for some hot tea and views over the palm-fringed lotus lake, named “Best Emotional Recovery Space” by the Condé Nast Traveller Spa Awards 2019.

Looking for more mind and body work, we sign up for AntiGravity Yoga the next day and meet up in the gorgeous Thanh Tinh Yoga Pavilion surrounded by lush greenery. There, the lithe, soft-spoken Resident Yogi, Praveen Subramanian, eases us into the Christopher Harrison-designed hammocks, leading us through a series of poses and stretches that peak with us securely suspended upside-down. The supple yet sturdy hammocks help us achieve otherwise impossible stretches and positions and we leave feeling invigorated and more in tune with our bodies than we had in years.

The Universe in a Piece of Bread

“When you take a bite of bread… do it with awareness. Looking deeply into the bread, see the golden wheat fields and the beautiful countryside around them; see the labor of the farmer, the miller, and the baker. The bread doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from the grains, the rain, the sun, the soil, and the hard work of many people. The whole universe has brought this piece of bread to you.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

We mull over this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh as we savor freshly baked focaccia slathered in pumpkin aioli at Lá Sen Restaurant, one of the resort’s four dining and lounge venues. With both Korean and Indian chefs in the kitchen, the resort turns out incredibly authentic international favorites. During our stay, we particularly enjoy a succulent chicken tikka served tableside on a brazier and a fantastic plate of spicy Korean pork ribs.

But it’s at the resort’s acclaimed cooking academy where we really connect with where our food comes from. Housed in its own fully-equipped villa, the academy is presided over by jovial Chef Hien Huynh. Normally, the academy showcases Vietnamese cuisine to international guests, but with borders closed, classes currently feature international cuisine geared towards Vietnamese cooks. We walk the short distance to the resort’s vast organic garden where mango and papaya are harvested for salads, along with neat rows of herbs, lettuces, and other crops. Tonight, we’re cooking Italian and we pluck basil, sage, and other herbs for the meal. Soon enough, we’re elbow deep in smashed potatoes for homemade gnocchi, flouring fresh seafood for the Fritto Misto, and wrapping pounded chicken breasts in prosciutto for the Chicken Saltimbocca. It feels good to work with food from garden-to-table and to feel a tangible connection to the Earth and her bounty.

“To sit with friends and practice mindful eating together can bring a lot of joy. When you chew, be aware that the whole universe is miraculously coming together wonderfully in your mouth. Don’t ingest your worries, your anxiety, or your plans. Open your eyes, look at the people around you, and smile.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

From now through 31 March 2021, A Time to Cherish offer extends 50% savings on all villa stays at The Nam Hai, with offer prices starting at just VND 8,519,000++ for a One Bedroom Villa.

Magical memories are there for the making, from the joyful multi-generational playground of the Resort’s four- and five-bedroom accommodations to the laidback luxury of its Pool Villas. Guests can find their ideal ‘reconnection zone’ from a range of options, including:

  • Sleek and chic One Bedroom Villa from VND 8,519,000++ per night
  • Private happiness hub Family Villa from VND 11,457,000++ per night
  • Steps-from-the-sand One Bedroom Beachfront Villa from VND 11,457,000++ per night
  • Next to nature haven Three Bedroom Oceanview Pool Villa from VND 31,784,000++ per night

All rates include a sumptuous daily breakfast as well as a resort credit of VND 2,000,000 per bedroom for two consecutive nights and an additional VND 1,000,000 credit per bedroom per night from the third night onwards*.

Cherish time together in the sanctuary of Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An. Contact +84 235 395 9879 or reservations.hoian@fourseasons.com for information.

*Terms and conditions apply. Please see offer for details.

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