Take a sneak peek at five-star property Nam Nghi Phu Quoc Island Resort in Vietnam — just a quick hop from Ho Chi Minh City
words & photos: MATTHEW COWAN
The Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc is on the cusp of becoming something big as a travel destination in Southeast Asia. People are talking. We first visited the island — an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City — back in 2011.
At that time, you could rent a motorcycle and ride the length and breadth of the island in a day, along the way encountering sleepy fishing villages, local markets and villagers drying fish on the side of the dirt tracks in preparation for making fish sauce — something Phu Quoc is renown for in Vietnam.
It was nothing to stop off along the way, strip off and take a dip in the crystal clear waters along a stretch of pristine beach that you had all to yourself.
So it was with some apprehension that we returned at the end of 2017 amid talk of Phu Quoc’s potential demise at the hands of rapid development and its impact on the environment. Talk of towering hotels, sprawling resorts, theme parks and a new international airport was — and still is — cause for concern.
But we are happy to say all is not lost, yet. The airport is simple (and out of the way) but efficient and our pick-up courtesy of Nam Nghi Phu Quoc Island Resort was seamless. The 40-minute drive to the resort was just long enough to catch a glimpse of island life along the way, albeit the more touristy areas of the island’s main township Duong Dong. Things are what we might call somewhat rustic still.
And, importantly, there is little evidence that the island is being ruined, although there are signs of large-scale resort developments underway. If there is indeed damage being done, it’s being kept out of sight of tourists.
Nam Nghi Phu Quoc Island Resort is not yet a year old but on first impression it feels like it’s been here for years. In something of a rarity in Vietnam, the developer’s mission was to have as little impact on the site as possible during the construction phase. And they have achieved this.
One example is the towering banyan tree under which the resort’s fine dining restaurant — the Tree House — was built. The tree has clearly been around much, much longer than the resort. It is quite impressive and to a certain degree affords diners with the sensation that they are actually dining in a treehouse, and the views are pretty special, too.
Tree House Restaurant — and in fact the rest of the resort grounds — stands as proof that five-star resorts of this scale can be constructed without the wholesale levelling of a property and elimination of an entire ecosystem.
The photos you see of the property were taken when the resort was just six months old, and as you can see, the gardens already look well-established.
The resort has a number of stunning accommodation options, with guests given the choice of hotel-style rooms — like the Blue Ocean Deluxe (starting around US$300 per night) that we feature below — and villas (starting around US$650 per night).
The Blue Ocean Deluxe room is narrow but comfortable enough for a couple (and perhaps a toddler). It offers everything you would expect in a room at this price, but the selling point is undoubtedly the view — blue waters and wooden fishing boats bobbing around on it.
There are some pretty killer views from the bathtub and shower, too. Perhaps the downside to the bathroom is that it’s narrow with little bench space. But hey, can you really have everything?
The communal spaces throughout the resort are light and airy. Below is one of the areas in the hallway to the rooms. There are views of the ocean on both sides.
Nam Nghi has its own beach and a large pool with a clubhouse and lifeguards.
The buffet or al carte breakfast can be enjoyed just about anywhere.
So what’s the skinny on this place? If you’ve got loads of cash, by all means book a stay here but you’re going to pay for it. Hotel-style rooms start at around US$300 per night with breakfast but if you plan to eat lunch and dinner here, you could expect to spend upwards of US$400 to US$500 per day, especially if you drink and eat at the Tree House Restaurant.
The upside to it is that the place is peaceful because it doesn’t get overrun with families with young children, as well as groups of friends hanging out like many other resorts here do. It’s also easy to get to with the resort’s airport transfer service.
While the resort was in the soft-opening stage when we stayed and had a few of the typical issues that come with that, overall the staff were very friendly and did their best to provide a pleasant experience, particularly at the Tree House Restaurant. The food there is quite creative as well.
And finally, the trump card Nam Nghi has up its sleeve is its own private island with a small beach. By day it’s a pleasant place to hang out, by night there’s a bar and nightclub which is open to guests and non-guests. The sunsets are amazing.
For more info about Nam Nghi Phu Quoc Island Resort, go to facebook.com/namnghiresort or namnghiresort.com