East of Eden – Vietnam

A healthy diet and deep connection with nature are just some of the reasons why Vietnam is a top pick for a wellness holiday...

I’m not sure I’ve thought this through,” I think to myself as I enter the dark room, my fellow travellers following me inside. “I can’t sing.”

I’m at the Alma Resort in Cam Ranh, an up-and-coming coastal area of Vietnam with pristine beaches and beautiful hotels. My one-bedroom villa with private pool is so close to the sea I could skim a pebble into it; my spa treatment that day has fixed any aches and pains.

Now, kneeling in front of a machine in the resort’s own Karaoke Room, I’m wondering why I was so eager to do this. Where is Gareth Malone when you need him? He would happily recall the benefits of a good old sing-song, from boosting mood and immunity to improving memory function. The Vietnamese would take it over a night in the pub any day.

I begin with a duet hoping that someone will become the Elton to my Kiki – they do; and it feels great.

One by one my fellow travellers take to the mic – some with voices like angels; others going for it with gusto.

We reluctantly call it a night at 01.00; huge smiles on our faces, laughter in our bellies. If that’s not food for the soul, then I don’t know what is.

Hitting the high note

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If Covid taught us anything, it’s the value of self-care, with exercise, nutritious food, and a good old scream, cry or sing-song (remember those Italian balconies?) key to a healthy existence. And this isn’t just at home, with more holidaymakers shunning a fly and flop in favour of a wellness retreat or hotel with a fabulous spa.

In Vietnam, multi-award-winning TIA Wellness Resort was the first to coin the term ‘spa-inclusive’ with two complimentary 80-minute treatments per day per guest included in the nightly rate.

“Vietnam is a great choice for a wellness trip thanks to its favourable climate and 3,000km coastline,” says Dan Wilcock, Senior Product Executive at Audley Travel.

“It offers world-class beaches, national parks, hot springs and mud baths, as well as luxury wellness retreats surrounded by nature,” he adds.

“We are seeing more resorts opening to support wellbeing,” says CEO of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, Trần Trọng Kiên.

“Most have fantastic spas and dedicated spaces for meditation, a Bhuddist practice popular in Vietnam.”

Sport is becoming more important, too, he continues, “with new hiking, running and biking routes opening up. And the Vietnamese diet of rice, vegetables and spices is healthy and delicious.”

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What’s new

New lift: Bamboo Airways has launched new routes from Gatwick Airport to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The routes are operated by the airline’s new fleet of Boeing A787-9 Dreamliners, with three classes: Business, Premium Economy and Economy. bambooairways.com

Help for agents: The Vietnam Tourist Board is set to launch its long-awaited training hub this year, with e-newsletters, training modules and fam trips aimed at helping agents sell holidays to the country. The hub is part of the tourist board’s goal to attract one million visitors to the country each year from 2025.

Spa time: Alma Resort in Cam Ranh has recently unveiled a new menu at Le Spa following the appointment of a new spa manager. The menu includes signature treatments with names like Reset, Recover and Rejuvenate; facials; four-handed massages; hot stone therapy; and treatments for children. alma-resort.com

Accommodation: The Lux Collective is set to open a luxury, over-the-water property in Vietnam on Phu Quoc Islands in 2024, the first of its kind in the country. Luxnam Phu Quoc will offer 126 villas, four pools, several restaurants, and a comprehensive spa and fitness centre. theluxcollective.com

The Waldorf Astoria group is set to debut in Vietnam with the Waldorf Astoria Hanoi.
Slated to open in 2025, the conversion of the Hilton Hanoi Opera will offer 187 re-imagined rooms and suites, four dining options and holistic therapies at the Waldorf Astoria Spa. hilton.com/en/waldorf-astoria

Nobu Hotels is set to debut in Vietnam in 2025 with a luxury hotel at the top of the eye-catching 43-storey Denang City Centre podium, overlooking My Khe Beachfront. As well as 200 rooms, including 18 suites, the hotel will feature a rooftop bar and lounge and an extensive wellness and fitness facility. nobuhotels.com

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Top wellness experiences

Nature on tap: visit Phu Quoc Island

Known for its long sandy beaches, turquoise waters, dense rainforest, marine sanctuary and national park – where visitors come to hike – the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc was voted the world’s leading nature reserve by the World Travel Awards 2022, beating Antigua, Zanzibar, Reunion Island and Scotland’s Isle of Skye.

The berry best: check into Sailing Club Signature Resort Phu Quoc

A Berryplus Antioxidant Infusion treatment at the Sailing Club Signature Resort Phu Quo spa is said to be an ultra-oxygenating, anti-aging treatment based on vitamin-rich super berries and plant cell cultures which rejuvenates and renews. The treatment is followed with a massage. sc-signaturephuquoc.com/spa/

Water, water everywhere: cruise the Mekong Delta

Nothing feeds the soul like a meander down the narrow channels of the jungle on a tour of the Mekong Delta with Abercrombie & Kent. Taking place on traditional wooden vessels with a dozen or so sleeper cabins, travellers can spot otters, crocodiles and rare birds in the rich ecosystem; and dine at floating night markets. abercrombiekent.co.uk

Clean, green air: head north to the rice paddies

Most of Vietnam’s rice is grown in flooded fields rather than dry land, making it a green spectacle worth heading north for. Built by the H’mong ethnic minority, Mu Cang Chai’s stepped paddies cover 2,000 hectacres, stretching as far as the eye can see. Holidaymakers wishing to roll up their sleeves can book a Hands-on Rice Growing Tour with Audley Travel audleytravel.com

Mud glorious mud: try cave canyoning at Phong Nha Ke National Park

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a playground for adventurers, with over 104kms of ancient limestone caves and underground rivers to explore. Step into the limestone cliffs for canyoning and tubing – including the opportunity to float in a mud-filled cavern deep inside – or seek out Phong Nha Cave, the world’s largest.

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Food for the soul: book a cycling food tour of Hoi An

With its network of canals and cobbled streets, the tiny town of Hoi An is as quaint as they come.

Cycle through the colourful streets on a foodie tour with Luxperia to sample local flavours at back-street, family-run restaurants and cafes before giving it a go in a cooking class run by a local chef. luxperia.com/vietnam

Where to book it

Health and Fitness Travel

Health and Fitness Travel offers a seven-night Wellness Inclusive at TIA Wellness Resort from £1,585pp. Price includes daily breakfast, return transfers and a wellness programme. Separate direct flights from London Heathrow to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines are priced from £418pp, departing May 16.