It is hard to imagine a better place to spend a birthday than in the Four Seasons Nam Hai in Vietnam.
Because my birthday falls in the middle of the school holidays – I am regularly somewhere overseas when I celebrate it. Sometimes that is great – other times, not so much. Rome in 2015 was spent in terrible heat, in a car without air-conditioning, racing from one sight to the next, while on a cruise, with a unhappy, hot child who just wanted a gelato and a bookstore. 2016, we were in a fabulous resort in Koh Samui, but the husband spent the entire day on the phone working – literally from 6am till 6pm. Last year we were once again on a cruise, racing around Athens in 40 degree heat seeing whatever we could in one day.
So this year I was determined, that we would get it right. And we did.
For starters the hotel we are staying at is fantastic. The villas are stunning and the private pool villa’s even more so. It is so good that it deserves a blog post all of its own. (watch this space)
The day started with a sunrise walk along the beach. It is an early 5am start at this time of year but completely worth it. Given the heat during the day, a decent walk is hard to achieve unless you are up at dawn and we are naturally early risers – or at least the husband is. The beach is beautiful and long – it stretches as far as the eye can see. The fishing boats are finishing up for the day and heading to the markets so there is an energy and pace about, but it is still peaceful and quiet.
Obviously, when you are lucky enough to be in a pool villa, right on the beachfront, it is natural that you would be swimming by 6am, so after the walk it was back to the hotel for a quick dip.
Then we were off on a bike ride with the hotel team, through rice paddies to a local market by 6.30am. The place was buzzing, full of local produce and local people. After the business of Ho Chi Minh, the pace was considerably more sedate – but still crazy by Kiwi standards. The ride was easy enough and the heat bearable. Although the small person may disagree!
Home by 7.30am for another swim before a long lazy breakfast by the main pool.
It felt like we had had the whole day already.
The food here is incredible. The fruit and herbs are packed full of flavour. Many come from the resorts own gardens and orchards and it really adds to the flavour of the dishes. (Check out my other blog post on the Nam Hai Cooking Academy ). So the breakfast was, as usual, spectacular.
At 10.30am we joined one of the hotel team for a demonstration in preparing Vietnamese coffee. Coffee here is chocolatey, thick and sweet – thanks to the addition of sweetened condensed milk. In different regions it is drunk differently but always slowly. We were taken on a journey the North to the South in terms of flavour profiles and tasted all the different varieties.
Coffee is filtered by the cup and served either hot or cold over ice. It is simply stunning. As a birthday treat I was presented with a pack including the filter, to take home so will add it to the options I serve at the beach cafe this summer!
After more swimming and lazing by the pool, it was time for a Kayak lesson for Charlotte in the main pool, with a spot of complementary yoga for me at the Spa.
There is always an activity happening in the hotel, from lantern making to paddle boarding to yoga. There is no time for boredom but equally no pressure to do anything at all.
Then off into Hoi An for a dress fitting because I am so fat from from all the fabulous food.
After another swim it was time for family photos, a cake and champagne delivered to the room by our lovely private Butler, Tau.
Finally a stunning beachside meal for dinner with yet more complementary champagne.
Birthday’s do not get better than this and there is no place I would rather be than here.
If this is a Four Season’s birthday – then I’m booking in every year!
Highlights from small heights
It’s Mum’s birthday, which means I cannot be critical. Ergo, I cannot talk.