The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Extravagantly opulent, romantically magical, almost mythical resort luxury in Danang.
The must-dos (if any): Dine at La Maison 1888, have a drink at The L_o_n_g Bar, have a massage at the HARNN Heritage Spa, take a dip in the main pool.
Intro: In February 2018, during my trip to Danang, I checked into the King Resort Classic Ocean View room at InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. The luxury five-star beach resort – comprising 200 rooms, suites, penthouses and villas – is nestled deep in the heart of Son Tra Peninsula Nature Reserve in Danang, about 30 minutes away from Danang International Airport. This property is prominently featured in the InterContinental Hotels and Resorts brand film and was Leona Lewis’ choice of destination earlier this year, so you know it is something special.
In my post about Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa, I had described InterContinental Danang as “truly everything and the kitchen sink in terms of sheer grandeur, majesty and indulgent excess”. That pretty much sums up the entire experience. Spanning across four levels linked by cable car – Heaven, Sky, Earth, and Sea – and featuring both a fine dining restaurant helmed by a three Michelin-star chef as well as an award-winning spa, the magnificent resort offers a truly unforgettable experience in opulent, romantically magical, almost mythical luxury.
Situated on the Heaven level, the King Resort Classic Ocean View room may be one of the entry level rooms of the resort, but the 70 sqm room is certainly nothing shabby, boasting a balcony with an impressive sea view ripped straight from the pages of Silverkris as well as a spacious bathroom with a deep bathtub, rain shower and double vanity sinks. The design of the room is all poker card suits-meets-chess pieces, filtered through an Alice in Wonderland looking glass. The HARNNN bathroom amenities are Aesop-esque in their luxurious botanical dreaminess, and the toilet area has only a curtain and no door, which should make a day of untrammelled digestion fairly interesting in terms of bathroom aromatics. Elsewhere, the television screen quality is…old fashioned, although it is likely the television would not come into play very much.
You are awakened by the sound and smell of the sea. It is pretty darn glorious.
I also managed to check out the Heavenly Penthouse (the most luxurious room category excluding villas). The 170 sqm room, situated at one of the highest points of the resort and commanding the best view of the Monkey Bay, was an exercise in unadulterated excess. The penthouse has its own heated infinity pool and personal butler, with both the bathroom and bathtub being double the size of those in the King Resort Classic Ocean View room. Well, if it was good enough for Leona Lewis…
The resort spans across four levels – Heaven, where the hotel reception, the Club InterContinental Lounge and the main dining restaurant Citron are situated; Sky, where you can find boutique shopping options; Earth, which houses La Maison 1888 by three Michelin-star chef Pierre Gagnaire as well as the Buffalo Bar for truly serious drinks; and Sea, where you can find most of the other amenities including the HARNN Heritage Spa, the beach and both the club and main pools, seafood concept Barefoot, PEDI:MANI:CURE Studio by Bastien Gonzalez as well as casual beachside restaurant and bar L_O_N_G Bar. The distinct levels are connected by cable car and stairs.
Designed by architect/landscaper/designer Bill Bensley, who has said that the resort’s design was inspired by his visits to various temples, imperial tombs and palaces in Vietnam, every inch of the resort premises is boldly coloured and furnished, and begs for a picture. You might randomly come across a bright, Taylor Swift lips-red circular couch while waiting to check in, or a bright lemon-coloured wavy couch on the way to the dungeon-chic toilet. Paintings of monkeys and birds adorn the walls of Citron – itself playful with its citric color palette of yellow and green – whilst the exterior of Citron’s external structure dining rooms resemble hairy Mongolian yurts, and the private dining booths take the shape of inverted Non La (Vietnamese conical hats). One of the function rooms within the event buildings, beyond the main resort’s premises and close to the entrance gates, resembles something from Frozen with its white and pristine stateliness. Statues of, inter alia, a Merlion and the Statue of Liberty stand around randomly in the open. The design choices are simultaneously audacious, over-the-top and fantastic all at once.
The resort has two swimming pools – the main infinity pool is long enough to allow laps (and is one of the resort venues most pictured in advertising materials), while the beachside club pool is cosily-sized and heated.
THE CLUB LOUNGE
Situated on the Heaven level, the Sun Peninsula Club Lounge impresses with its fine dining classiness. Club guests can enjoy daily breakfast, afternoon high tea and evening cocktails and canapes at the club lounge.
As far as breakfast goes, the club lounge is certainly a preferable venue due to its inherent peace and quiet as compared to the bustling, tourist-laden Citron (unless, of course, you’re a Korean-obsessed fangirl eager to meet an eligible oppa since Danang has a disproportionately high number of Korean visitors). Egg choices are plentiful – apart from the usual scrambled/fried/omelette options, you can opt for Local Vietnamese Omelette (crab meat, chilli, bean sprouts, coriander, watercress) or even ask for Eggs Florentine, Royale or Benedict. Congee and Northern Pho (beef or chicken) are available for carb-fillingness, and for that extra classy sweet ending you can ask for the Crépes “Normandise” (flambéed apples, calvados, bourbon vanilla).
The evening canape selection is modest, and you are better off with wine or spirits on the rocks (or a cocktail at Buffalo Bar) than the entry-level cocktails here. I was cheeky and asked for a Negroni, which was not on the menu. I was initially told they could not make it, but then they did, and all was good in the world.
You are greeted by a certain grandeur of proceedings once you enter the lounge.
The resort presents numerous dining and drinking options for every need. Citron is the resort’s main dining destination, offering the daily breakfast buffet as well as variety of Vietnamese and Mediterranean dishes all day. While Citron is certainly for the families, the two-storey and manor-esque La Maison 1888 presents a romantic experience for foodies and lovers alike, offering both course meal and a la carte options, with the Buffalo Bar within the same building available for post-dinner serious tipples. The L_O_N_G Bar is for lovers and friends, offering drinks often in eye-catching monkey-shaped vessels as well as light bites to nosh on while the party relaxes on a massive cushion booth. Beachfront diner Barefoot serves pizza, pasta, gourmet sandwiches and grilled meats and seafood in a casual and relaxed setting.
I had dinner at La Maison 1888. The Grenouille in 3 ways (frog tempura with green curry mayonnaise, frog sauce Poulette with mushrooms and small onions, and frog à la Provencal on grilled cabbage leaf, served with purée de pommes de terre flavored with rice vinegar and local herbs) was memorably good, as was the Pierre Gagnaire Grand Dessert comprising multiple mini-desserts (sample item: dried plums ravioli with black tea, fresh tamarind from Danang). However, the gamey Challans duck (roasted whole duck from Challans, coated with cocoa and grinded dragees, potato Bilou, eggplant cannelloni and duck’s leg rillette coated with beetroot syrup) was head-scratchingly, colossally, monumentally disappointing for a 2,699,000VND (SGD$155) dish. I did not finish the bird, which is a first for me at a fine dining restaurant. Fortunately, the Smoked Negroni at the sexy, Cluedo room-esque Buffalo Bar – complete with bell-jar showmanship – assisted in ending the night on a sublime note.
Of course, in-room dining is also available, which is an option more sensible here than at most other hotels given the marvellous sea view whilst dining at the balcony.
HARNN HERITAGE SPA
I am inherently not a facial/spa/massage person – I do not fancy just anybody touching my precious bits – but HARNN Heritage Spa’s repute (it was crowned by World Luxury Spa Awards 2017 as “Global Spa of the Year” & “Best Luxury Spa Retreat” and named as “Asia’s Best Resort Spa” by World Spa Awards in 2016) made me curious as to what a good spa experience feels like, and I gave in to my dangerous #TreatYoSelf, #BrokeWithExpensiveTaste tendencies and decided to go for a tame-sounding facial.
After checking into the spa and filling out the necessary paperwork indicating my preferences, a buggy brought me away from the main resort to the spa treatment premises a distance away. Upon arrival, I was instructed to change into the usual disposable underwear, which I was pleased to note was no black hair-net.
My HARNN Heritage Spa experience began with a foot scrub and massage (with the masseur regularly checking my comfort level in a manner so serious and dutiful that I could have swore I blushed involuntarily) before the masseur proceeded to give me a facial so gentle and comfortable that I actually fell asleep midway. I had naively expected my 60-minute session to comprise nothing but hands on my face, but they travelled elsewhere as well. For that short period in the dark room, soundtracked by soothing spa music and with the Midas touch of the expert masseur, I felt my stress and worries break away from their 5kg kettlebell shackles and float away like a dollar bill after spending on this facial.
It is hard to imagine any other luxury property in Danang being in any way superior to InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, which is truly “everything and the kitchen sink in terms of sheer grandeur, majesty and indulgent excess”. It is the type of place where people celebrate significant anniversaries, make grand marriage proposals or get inspired to make fundamentally life-changing decisions. As long as you are within the resort premises, life as you know it temporarily suspends, and you do not wish to leave. The resort makes for an unforgettable experience, and I have been seriously spoiled rotten for life.
“A place where Myth meets Luxury,” the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort website boasts. How right they were.
InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort
Son Tra Peninsula
This post is written at the invitation of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, although observations – and much wallet thinning – are solely mine.