Singaporebrides | Editors' Notes
Where Myth Meets Luxury at InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula
I visited Da Nang and stayed at the beautiful InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, where I spent a wonderful two nights enjoying spectacular Vietnamese cuisine, luxuriating at HARNN Heritage Spa, and even made a short trip to nearby Hoi An for some shopping.
During the reign of King Minh Mang from 1820 to 1841, local fishermen discovered a statue of the Goddess of Mercy on the beach on the Son Tra Peninsula, Da Nang. Considering this a good omen, the locals named the beach “Bai But”, meaning the beach of the Buddha, and built a small pagoda on the mountain there. With the Goddess of Mercy watching over them, the people enjoyed peaceful and prosperous lives for a long while.
During the anti-American war, the pagoda and the statue were destroyed. In 2004, after gathering donations from Buddhist followers from near and far, the pagoda was rebuilt and modernised. The Goddess of Mercy statue that now stands at Linh Ung Pagoda is the tallest in Southeast Asia, and has her back to the mountain, watching over the locals at Da Nang once again. At night, the statue is illuminated, radiating like a light house, guiding the fishermen at sea home to safety.
Driving past the fishermen in their traditional round rattan “basket boats” near the coast at Man Thai Fishing Village, we headed towards the Son Tra Peninsula. It was a short journey from Da Nang International Airport and halfway through the climb, the driver pointed out the profile of the Goddess of Mercy that was peeking out from behind the lush greenery of the mountain. I wasn’t expecting her at all, since it was my first time in Da Nang, but she was breathtaking. It was a great start to my visit to Da Nang, because this trip was going to be full of surprises.Fishermen at Man Thai Fishing Village The towering Goddess of Mercy statue
Along the way, I was keeping a look out for the Red Shanked Douc, since the mountain we were on was nicknamed the Monkey Mountain. 20 per cent of the endangered Red Shank Monkey population is found on the Son Tra Peninsula so sightings have been common. However, I spotted mostly couples and groups of friends, with their scooters parked on the roadside, as they stood precariously over the mountain’s edge, taking selfies. There were also couples having their wedding shots taken. Apparently, because of the beautiful view, people have ridden their scooters up the winding mountain roads for romantic dates.
My destination was InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. Arriving at the entrance of the resort, and discovering the view beyond the reception area, I felt like I had arrived at a heavenly realm. I couldn’t be further away from the truth, though, because I was to find out that the resort was divided into four levels: Heaven, Sky, Earth, and Sea. The resort reception was at Heaven level, and my Terrace Suite was at Sky level.View from the Reception
I fell in love with my suite as soon as I stepped into it. If it was your first time in Vietnam, you’ll be educated about the culture and history of the country within a night’s stay just by studying the furnishings of your room. After famous resort architect Bill Bensley agreed to take on the project of designing InterContinental Danang from scratch (apparently, he said yes immediately after seeing the view from the bay of the unspoiled waterfront property, even though he was very busy at the time), he embarked on a year-long journey from North to South Vietnam, immersing himself in all the country has to offer, from temples, palaces and imperial tombs, to traditional crafts, ancient towns, and untouched nature.Image of Son Tra Terrace Suite courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Image of bathroom courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Bird’s eye view of the resort The calm East Sea and the suites at Earth Level
From the reception at Heaven level looking down, you’ll see that the rooms and suites are painted white and black on the outside, reflecting the black lacquered wood and white tiles of Vietnamese temples. In the rooms, colourful Hoi An lanterns, ornately carved candle stands, as well as motifs like dragons and lotus flowers decorate ceilings and bathroom shelves. In case you forget you’re surrounded by nature, you will find wooden kingfishers, ceramic birds, and cast iron ostriches watching you silently as you soak in the lotus-shaped marble bath or hang out at the balcony. Bill Bensley is a delightfully adventurous and whimsical designer; his quirky furnishings and choice of art pieces keep the resort looking modern and interesting.365 steps from Heaven to Sea Level, one step for each day of the year
The sun sets early this time of the year, so after exploring the suite, I made my way back up to Heaven level, where I could see dimly lit upside-down cones floating in mid-air. My first dinner at Da Nang was to be at Citron restaurant, and those cones I saw were private dining booths shaped like an inverted non la, the iconic Vietnamese cone hat. The setting was romantic, and the dinner menu was a wonderful introduction to Vietnamese food, with items from North, Central, and South Vietnam. The menu was overseen by famous Vietnamese chef Anh Tuyet, whose grilled honey chicken was, according to Anthony Bourdain, the finest Vietnamese meal he had ever had. After tasting the Mango Salad I ordered, I had to agree with Bourdain’s sentiments. It was the sweetest, spiciest, most savoury mango salad I have ever had. It was unforgettable and a wonderful first impression.Sitting in one of the outdoor private booths at Citron The amazing Mango Salad
The next morning, I grabbed the beach bag and outdoor slippers that were provided in the suite, greeted the stone monkeys outside my suite and made my way back to Citron for breakfast. In the day, Citron looked really different. With a generous use of lime green and lemon yellow furnishing in the restaurant, the romance from last night was transformed into something lively and cheeky, with an equally refreshing buffet spread. I found myself flitting from the freshly baked pastries and bread, to the hot stations serving congee and noodles, to the wonderful array of tropical fruits. It was hard to restrain myself, especially since they serve last night’s Mango Salad too! I was already looking forward to breakfast the next day.Stone monkeys guard the suites and the pathways all over the resort What the private booths at Citron look like in the day Indoor and air-conditioned dining for Club InterContinental members The hot station at breakfast Freshly baked pastries and bread Best variety of tropical fruits I have ever seen at a hotel – passionfruit, grapefruit, rambutans, mangoes, water apples…
After breakfast, I made my way to the Concierge to plan my activities, and realised that, instead of a small counter next to the Reception, the Concierge at InterContinental Danang was located a floor below. It was a large counter in the middle of the building, designed to look like an old apothecary, with books, jars and apothecary drawers to boot. There I met the lovely girls at the Concierge, An, Tran, and Diu.The girls at the Concierge Apothecary-inspired design details at the Concierge
“Xin Chao!” they greeted brightly as I approached them and we fell into a conversation about the resort.
“Have you visited the restrooms at the restaurants?” they asked, after they’ve introduced most of the resort to me.
“No, I haven’t,” I replied, as I looked at them suspiciously.
“Go visit all of them, and we’ll tell you their stories when you come back.”
InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort was recently awarded the World’s Leading Luxury Resort for the second year, surpassing 10 other nominees in the Worldwide category. And this was after winning four other awards in the Asia & Australasia category earlier. Ever since the resort’s launch in 2013, they have been sweeping the awards clean. By blurring the lines between the low and high culture Bill Bensley had experienced during his travel in Vietnam, and incorporating humble village details into contemporary settings, as well as his penchant for placing French-inspired furniture next to essentially Vietnamese lamps and vintage cabinets, he found a balance between the old and the new, the humble and the luxurious. And the restrooms. Well, you’d definitely be spending a lot more time in them, admiring his attention to detail and taking many photos.Ceramic dishes fill up the entire wall at the restroom at Citron
Then there’s the technology. Because of the four-leveled landscape, the resort has its own cable-car system, called the Nam Tram, to conveniently transport their guests and staff to each level.The Nam Tram From Heaven to Sea Level
I took the manned Nam Tram to Sea level, where the award-winning HARNN Heritage Spa was located. Set slightly away from the main resort facilities up the mountain, the spa has its own design story. There are 10 treatment rooms and villas, each modelled after Quonset huts used by the U.S. forces in both World War II and the Vietnam War. From the outside, the 10 huts look as utilitarian as the originals look, tubular, with a rusty military green coat of paint. But on the inside, the spa is as calm as a spa should be, with natural lighting, organic curved walls and ceilings. During the wars, the Quonset huts were often used as hospitals, and this is Bill Bensley’s way of reconciling Vietnam’s painful past with its present, as the spa is now a place for healing.The re-imagined Quonset huts in its own sanctuary A private outdoor shower at the HARNN Heritage Spa A couple’s room at HARNN Heritage Spa Beginning my spa treatment with a footbath
HARNN Heritage Spa focuses on restoring natural balance to the body and mind, and crafts their treatments from the healing wisdom passed down from generations of traditional Asian medicine. A part of my spa treatment involved lying flat on a huge piece of marble that had been sourced from the famous Marble Mountains nearby, while I was scrubbed, washed, and coated in a botanical concoction to revive the flow of energy in my body.
I had a table waiting for me at La Maison 1888 that evening at Earth level. The restaurant, which offers a haute French dining experience, is the first in Vietnam to feature a Michelin-star chef, Michel Roux. After its initial three years, world renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire took over its helm, and the restaurant is now becoming the number one gastronomic destination in Vietnam. Reservations has to be made weeks in advance because of the sheer number of non-resort guests who drive all the way up the mountain to dine there.Image of La Maison 1888 in the evening courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Seated at the dining hall La Veranda at La Maison 1888
Bill Bensley let his imagination run wild at La Maison 1888. He created a story of French-Eurasian family who lived in this antique mansion with separate dining areas, each a reflection of individual family members. With clever interior design and meticulous furnishing details, we get to dine in the Accountant’s Room, or the Traveler’s Room, and even the dark and risqué Le Boudoir de Madame. This was definitely a wonderful discovery this trip, to be able to taste exquisite French cuisine in such a fantastic setting.Image of Le Veranda courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Image of Le Boudoir de Madame courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula
The next morning, I got on the resort bus that would take me to Hoi An, a popular destination for tourists. There are actually many more activities I could have signed up for at the Concierge, such as lantern-making, riding in a traditional basket boat, and learning massage techniques at the spa, but I decided that I should take in the beautiful views of Danang and Hoi An, which was just an hour away, before I checked out of the resort in the evening.A monkey sighting!
On the way there, we passed by the famous famous beaches of Danang, as well as snaked our way around the town area, where locals went about their day. I spotted craft shops, as well as seafood restaurants, and some cafes worth visiting. The driver also stopped right beneath the Marble Mountains so I could take a look around Marble Village, where marble statues were being carved and sold. You could actually ride up Thuy Son, the only Marble Mountain accessible to tourists and visit the many temples and caves that dot the mountain.A shopping street at Hoi An A bridge built in the 1590s by the Japanese community in Hoi An to link to the Chinese quarters
I stopped at Hoi An for only 45 minutes (it is usually a half-day trip) and was already beguiled by the little cafes, boutiques, and large marketplaces at the shopping street. I told the driver on my way back that I was sad to leave so quickly. “That means you will have to come back,” he said, and I knew I had already made up my mind to.
Back at my Terrace Suite, I took a leisurely shower, admiring the view of the crystal clear waters of Son Tra Peninsula that was right outside the window. I then made a cup of tea and sat at the balcony, hypnotised by the Nam Trams as they made their way up and down the resort. I pondered about the parts of the resort that I hadn’t had time to visit, and the activities that I so want to try. I have also now become an even bigger fan of Bill Bensley. These two nights at InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula really left me wanting for more.An unforgettable view from the bathroom of the Terrace Suite
I decided to make my own way to the Reception to check out instead of calling for a buggy pick up. I made the short walk to the Nam Tram Station at my level and waved at the staff in the tram as she arrived.Pebbled turtles lead the way
“Xin Chao! Where would you like to go, ma’am?”
“Take me to Heaven, please,” I replied, not ironically.Image of the resort in the evening courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula
InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort is located in the heart of the Son Tra Peninsula, Vietnam, set in 37 hectares of stepped gardens leading down to a private beach, and surrounded by a beautiful landscape with panoramic views of the East Sea. Billed as the place “where myth meets luxury”, it is an easy drive to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Hoi An, Hue and My Son, perfect for honeymooners seeking an all-rounded romantic and luxurious experience steeped in cuisine and culture. For reservations and more information, please visit danang.intercontinental.com or their Facebook page. If you want to make your proposal or honeymoon even more special and memorable, book your reservation through the premium Club InterContinental site for exclusive benefits such as access to the Club Lounge, Club InterContinental guest room category and a dedicated Club InterContinental team for that extra personal service.
Feature image of viewing deck courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula.
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