Secluded islands in the tropics often come stamped with the word ‘paradise’. Nowhere is that more evident than at Vietnam’s most isolated archipelago, Con Dao.
Part of the attraction is the sand, sea and sun, but another part is the cosmos. Under the haze and lights of the city, you tend to forget it’s there. Yet on a clear night in Con Dao, the stars are so bright you feel you can almost touch them.
Six Senses Con Dao uses this to brilliant effect.
“As the earth is always moving,” says the resort’s experiences manager, John Land, “the stars look like they’re always changing position. They’re not.”
We’re at the property’s observatory, built, interestingly, on the top of the fitness centre. It’s one of only a handful of private observatories in Vietnam. Using a Galileo-style telescope we focus on one of the stars. It glistens and burns, emitting a ring of light. Outside we lie on daybeds to stare at the universe above.
“It’s amazing that humans have always been interested in the stars,” says one person, “though not as much as in what’s under the sea.”
Later on I download the app SkyView and from the beach, point my phone at the stars. It’s the middle of the night and those suns millions of light years away are even brighter than earlier on.
The constellations, Orion, Cancer and Gemini are in one direction, Aquarius and Pisces in another. I can see the location of the planets and individual stars. Even satellites are brought into view. I then turn off the app and just stare into the vastness beyond.
It’s in the Details
If you like five-star resorts that go the extra mile, then this property should be on your bucket list. Seamlessly merging beach, resort, mangroves and mountains, it’s the kind of place where they’ve thought of everything.
The villas, for example, are built of bamboo and wood, faded grey by the harshness of the island weather. Yet inside they are laced with luxury. It’s an eco-friendly development of the bungalows-on-the-beach idea that first attracted travellers in the 1960s. But step inside and every amenity and detail has been thought of in advance. How many resorts provide aloe vera gel or citronella mosquito spray as part of the in-room package? How many places let you choose not just your own pillows but your pillow fragrances? How many properties have their own water purification facility providing unlimited in-room drinking water in reusable bottles? And how many rooms come complete with their own bicycles to let you travel the length and breadth of the property?
Rent a motorbike to travel round the island and the same details apply — a helmet, raincoat, bottle of water and first-aid kit comes as part of the deal. Walk round the resort and everyone knows your name, and even how you prefer to be called. A butler — now known as a ‘guest experience maker’ — takes care of that. Mine was called Sam and she was faultless.
What was most surprising was the quality of the food. For somewhere so secluded you expect this to be an ongoing challenge. If it is, it’s something their kitchen team has overcome. Healthy salads and detox smoothies mix with Thai-style curries and salads, wraps, the banh bao burger, Vietnamese market-style cuisine, and dishes more typical of a top-end restaurant in the city. With ingredients more often than not imported from the mainland, this is a place that feeds its guests well.
But it’s the seclusion, the isolation from the world outside, and the closeness of nature that really set this resort apart.
Did anyone say the word ‘city’?
For more info click on sixsenses.com/condao