How to Say "I Do" in VietnamWords by Bart Conley
Photos courtesy of The Nam Hai
Like a balcony on the Pacific, the long stretch of Vietnam that juts off the Indochina Peninsula is a destination that’s just coming into its own as a mature destination for upscale travelers. Morning – as in Good Morning, Vietnam – is over. It’s high noon, at least. Indeed, the country is creeping toward the sophistication of the evening hours with its elegant accommodations, world-renowned cuisine and a population that’s in a perennial state of wedding fever. You’ll never see so many married couples out in Big Day finery with their photographer, as you will in Vietnam. Join them. And if you do, head for the Central Coast of the country, where the lures for wedding couples are as sparkling and downright seductive as anywhere.
Most of the major resort chains are represented on the wide swaths of sand outside Danang and Hoi An, but the most quintessential Vietnamese experience to be had in the country is at The Nam Hai, a GHM property renowned for its contemporary, Asian chic style. Each of the resort’s 100 ocean-view villas is a modern interpretation of the archetypal Vietnamese villa with vast, pitched roofs of terra cotta tile, interior columns and a remarkable bed platform commanding center stage, just like the traditional Vietnamese bed, phan, in a traditional Vietnamese garden house.
Central Vietnam is home to Vietnam’s most intriguing flavors. During the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), emperors demanded that no meal be repeated in the course of a year (so it’s said). However apocryphal that story, the chefs of Central Vietnam did develop a flare for inventiveness and extraordinary presentation. Foodies flock to this region, for the bun bo hue, the bun thit nuong, banh beo, com hen and a plethora of other amazing dishes.
Just seven miles from The Nam Hai is Hoi An, the tailoring capital of Vietnam. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned as Southeast Asia’s most exquisitely preserved 16th century seaport. Walking the streets of its Old Town, past age-old merchant homes and Chinese assembly halls is like traveling through time. More than a hundred tailors stand at the ready to build out a bride’s trousseau. Hoi An is a new Hong Kong. Tear a page from any magazine and just tell the tailor you want something like that. You may not get an exact replica of that $3,000 embellished blazer you’ve been dreaming of, but you’ll get something nearly like it at 5-10% of the cost.
Along the coast from Danang to Hoi An, the Cham Islands shimmer off shore, just far enough to suggest the possibility of mirage, but plenty close enough to compel newlyweds for some exotic underwater exploration. Named for and settled by the now vanished Cham people, who controlled this part of Vietnam through the 15th century, the eight islands of this archipelago are recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. They also happen to be one of the country’s premier snorkeling sites.
The opportunities for nightlife in the region range from refined tippling to disco dancing. For a low-key evening, head into Hoi An, where a myriad of bars now occupy the confines of grand old homes built by merchants as long ago as the 17th century. Café chairs spill from the ground floor maws of these joints, while second floor balconies jut out over the pedestrian friendly streets of the Old Town. If you’d rather whoop it up, head to Danang, the country’s most dynamic city, and the most happening when it comes to music ranging from hip hop to world beat.
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