Our taxi turned into the driveway of the discreet entrance of Fusion Maia Resort in the mid afternoon. The clouds persisted overhead – we hadn’t seen blue sky in a week – and we were travel tired. Maybe we hadn’t chosen the best time of the year to visit this luxurious beach resort, but we were here now, ready to throw ourselves into whatever they had to offer.
Within seconds of our cab stopping, its doors were opened, our luggage taken, and seemingly without having moved we were standing in the exquisite simplicity of the foyer of Fusion Maia. We were greeted with beatific smiles and soft voices and, on giving our name to the serene woman standing in front of us, were ushered to the Tonic Lounge Bar, where cool, revitalising drinks appeared in front of us, and moist face cloths were gently dropped into our outstretched hands. We had been at the resort for less than 5 minutes, but were already more relaxed than at any other time in our 4 weeks away. How do they do that?
While sipping our minty thirst quencher, our ‘visionista’, Renee, talked us through the features of our ‘honeymoon escape’ package (no matter that we have been married for 13 years!). The resort guarantees a minimum of two spa treatments per day (all inclusive), so the first thing Renee did was secure us slots in the spa for full body scrubs and massages, to ease our travel tensions and acclimatise to this new ‘way of life’. This ‘all inclusive spa service’ was not bestowed on us thanks to our ‘honeymoon escape’ – it is the service every guest receives. The extras that came with our package included a candlelit private dinner (anywhere, anytime), champagne, and a ‘surprise’ (oh, the suspense!).
Before our scrubs and massages, we had time to settle in and explore the resort, and take in the way the design draws one in to feel at ease. This began with much jaw-dropping, nudging at each other, and gesturing with head flicks in an attempt to be subtle in our awe and pass as people who lived like this every day – and this was simply on our escorted walk to our private pool villa. The entire complex is modelled on the Forbidden City of Hue, with its zen like garden courtyards and minimalist buildings which provided a unique combination of a sense of privacy and space. The architecture is a seamless melding of classical Asian and über modern slick, with no small detail overlooked in any area of the entire design.
Our private pool villa was one of the very few rooms we have ever stayed in that failed to present us with ANY design flaws. The villa was generous in its open planned design, giving the feeling of a large privately owned apartment, rather than a hotel room, with a sense of flow from the living area, to the bedroom, to the bathroom, with the added bonus of each of these spaces providing views to the private pool and garden. And, of course, we are talking about walls of glass (not windows) so the natural light and the link to nature with the water and greenery fuelled our sense of relaxation. The fact that the view could be enjoyed from the bed, the lounge, the bath, the shower, even the toilet (!) meant a concerted effort was required to drag oneself away from the villa to partake of the many other treats on offer.
Prying ourselves from our haven of perfection, we extended our field of exploration to the ‘Fresh Pool Bar’, with cloudy skies only adding to the atmospheric combination of thrill and relaxation. We settled ourselves poolside preparing to nibble and drink and read and blog, and were immediately greeted by another friendly staff member, ready to cater to our culinary desires. A glass of champagne, some lightly seared snacks, some choice witty remarks from our server that were friendly, yet not too over-familiar, and we were set. And a pleasant hour or so passed.
Walking through the silently closing doors of the spa complex, we were ‘checked-in’, handed the obligatory patient history/’issues’ card to complete and sat sipping a freshly made tea concoction (brewed for purging toxins) while we waited to be collected for our full body scrub. We are usually the ‘massage-only-with-the occasional-mani-pedi-thrown-in’ type of people. The full body scrubs exfoliated, exhilarated, sweated (thanks to being wrapped in plastic) and relaxed us – culminating in a refreshing shower, shared with partner – which helped considerably with getting rid of the dead flowers and other ‘scrub’ detritus. The following massage was so soothing, that it was only when the masseuse’s hand brush my shoulder and she whispered close to my head that I even realised I was asleep!
As we dreamily wandered from the spa, the lights of the ‘Five Dining Room’ (alluding to the five senses) drew us towards it, rather than back to our villa. And though we weren’t particularly hungry, we followed its siren’s call because we fancied some pinot noir and cheese to finish the evening. Cheese does not often appear on menus in Vietnam as a final course – desserts are aplenty, but decent dairy is hard to come by! The atmosphere in the ‘Five Dining Room’ was mellow – music underscored conversations rather than dominated them, and tables were just the right distance from each other for much appreciated privacy. Around us were families and couples enjoying the ‘full treatment’ from a menu that allowed you to be as ‘good’ or as ‘naughty’ with your level of gastronomic indulgences as you liked.
On our return to our villa, we discovered our (aforementioned) ‘surprise’ – our room dressed in the trappings of the honeymoon escape package. Chilled champagne was waiting in our living room alongside a passionfruit and chocolate concoction of proportions far too large for two people. The flower bath treatment had been ‘prepped’ – flowers strewn around the larva coloured tile and floating in the 10cm of bath water, ensuring a steamy experience by leaving us to draw it ourselves, and not having it cool before we returned to the room. We intended to bypass this last therapy treatment of the day, but after sipping champagne and getting a sugar rush from the baked goods, we decided to kick back, fill the tub and enjoy the view of the tastefully lit garden and plunge pool. The big surprise was the comfort provided by the bath itself. So often stylish, gorgeous bathing apparatuses offer no rest or ease at all, only a neck or back ache because the angles are all wrong, and the chance to hone butt-muscle-clenching skills when trying not to slide under the water when reclining. The dark stone of this bath, for all its minimalist sleekness, looked Spartan and uncomfortable, but it was the perfect size for 2 people (one of whom is 187cm tall), the stone was warm (not like enamel tubs) and the angles were perfect for lounging, champers in hand.
While we only stayed two nights, the whole ethos of Fusion Maia is geared towards a week of pampering, and I think a week would definitely be in order to get the full benefit! Each day of the week is colour-coded so you know what classes, wellness programs, consultations and social events are planned – almost ‘how to improve your life’ for the thoughtful! To be honest, there was so much more on offer than either of us was expecting. I had the noble ambition of doing an early morning yoga class, but after our simply AMAZING treatments the evening before, topped off with a relaxation therapy bath, our first morning we overslept and missed the yoga class. Oh well!
Even though this resort promises breakfast at any time of the day, at any location you choose (on the beach, in your room, in the gardens…), we decided to join the other guests in the dining room and were more than a tad impressed by the menu choices on offer. If the ample selection at the buffet doesn’t satisfy your cravings, you can have something made to order, and the Eggs Benedict were the best I had ever eaten.
The day was spent in activities of a non-strenuous nature, indulging in the pleasures of reading, eating and spa treatments throughout the day. Although a walk along the expanse of beach did masquerade as exercise, and alleviated the guilt when wallowing in said indulgences. [Note: the stretch of sand between Da Nang and Hoi An is actually 35km long – we managed a total of about 2km!] The beauticians in the spa were delightful in their friendly chat and eager when we encouraged them to give us some Vietnamese lessons, giggling at our terrible pronunciation throughout! If you happen to be a guest who much prefers such ablutions to pass in silence, that is not a problem at all (as witnessed by some very serene, relaxed and silent faces having their feet administered to) – we just happen to be the chatty types who enjoy a bit of back and forth with our beautician.
We elected to have our ‘honeymoon escape’ private dinner poolside in our garden villa – the beach or the sumptuous tropical gardens of the spa complex (complete with pool and waterfall) were options as well, but the relentless threat of rain really made the decision for us, and at least if the skies opened, we would only have to step through our glass doors to shelter. We vacated the premises an hour before dinner time so that the scene could be set in our ‘backyard’ (the staff accessed the gardens through a discreet gate, not the villa itself, so we didn’t even need to ‘tidy up’!). Checking our daily schedule and taking note that it was a ‘blue’ day, we went to the ‘Tonic Lounge Bar’ for happy hour where the blue theme was reflected in the cocktails on offer – blueberries and blue curaçao abounded! While most people are there to relax and reflect, there are still such opportunities to meet other guests, more friendly staff and enjoy the subtle social vibe, underscored by the distinct yet unobtrusive tones of artists such as Gotan Project.
Our stomachs alerted us that our hour was up, and we returned to our villa. The stage had been meticulously set for our private romantic dinner – lit coloured paper lanterns floated in the pool, candles adorned the water’s edge, and the palm frond shadows cast on the garden walls completed the theatrical effects. Our table provided us with the best seats in the house and our ipod selections accompanied the scene. The parade of dishes that followed were delicately flavoured, artfully presented and arrived hot – no small feat, given the kitchens were some distance from our villa. Our server left us ample time between his visits to deliver and clear, which was such a relief – having someone hovering in the corner of the garden waiting for you to finish is not conducive to the romantic dinner scenario! The four courses of our meal could have fed us thrice over, but we managed to pace ourselves a little, as the portions were ‘indulgent’ sized. After our server finished clearing, we collapsed in a well-fed, über relaxed heap and contemplated what one would have to do to live like this forever. No solution was reached, so instead we ‘made do’ with another good night’s sleep.
The attentiveness of the staff was consistently outstanding, in all areas of the resort. I was particularly impressed that our ‘visionista’ Renee (who is also the resident English teacher) checked in with us a few times a day when we were in the public areas to ensure that all of our needs were being met, but not once did I feel like she was chatting with us because it was her job – as with all staff members we encountered, there was a genuine warmth to her conversation and interest in us that was very engaging. It helped that she was an interesting person in her own right, and an excellent conversationalist. Joel, the Resident Manager, and Michelle, the General Manager, also made sure they caught up with each of their guests for a chat at some point during their stay – staff really do strive to ensure that every single person feels pampered, valued and very welcome.
Fusion Maia isn’t a resort, it’s a way of life! The philosophy of food, form and function was apparent in every aspect of this wellness-creating retreat. I can’t wait to sample other Fusion resorts throughout Asia as they emerge from the brain of visionary Louk Lennaerts, and are fashioned and formed by his amazing creative team. When we were leaving, the gathering in the foyer was reminiscent of the farewells in hallways after visiting family – the ones we REALLY like spending time with. Even on departure, Fusion Maia was giving us yet another holiday ‘first.’