Contributor/ Michelle Lewis
Best Known For
Salinda is the first five-star hotel in Phu Quoc (pronounced fu kwok), a Vietnamese island just off the coast of Cambodia. The hotel opened in October 2014. Phu Quoc is a relatively new holiday destination, and is expected to become Vietnam’s Phuket – which would be a bit of a shame, really, as its charm is its rusticity. But that’s going to change – there is a brand new airport just 10 minutes from the hotel, and cranes and building sites are everywhere – so get there soon, before the boom truly kicks off. (Unless you like Phuket. Then wait.)
The Good Stuff
Salinda’s restaurant, which specialises in Vietnamese and Italian cuisine, features a beautiful open-plan show kitchen and wine “cellar” (it’s like a glass walk-in cold room, and it’s one of the largest wine cellars in Vietnam). The restaurant sources herbs and vegetables from its own garden, and bakes all its baked goods from scratch. If you want to learn about Vietnamese cuisine, they offer cooking classes. One doesn’t usually write about hotel gift shops, but this one was a standout: it featured locally made handicrafts, from pearls to woven textiles and lacquer, and a portion of the profits go to the single mothers who made the crafts. The Guru Spa Thailand spa is fantastic, and run by experienced Thai massage therapists. (The Thai therapists are currently training the locals in Thai massage, so it’s good for the local economy.) I was given a pristine set of white pyjamas that I wanted to steal, and my therapist flexed and bent my limbs in a rejuvenating treatment that rivalled one of the most memorable Thai massages I’d had at a temple in Bangkok many years ago.
Friendly yet cool. We were there on a holiday weekend – the 40th anniversary of Vietnam’s reunification – and the place was buzzing with both Vietnamese families and young, hip international couples. Everyone appeared to be relaxing and having a great time. And how could you not? It’s sunny and warm, the staff bend over backwards to make you comfortable and feel welcome, the cocktails are fantastic and the pool area and beach are gorgeous. Sun worshippers, rejoice.
Inside the hotel – 8/10
This 121-room contemporary hotel has a slick modernist feel, but it hasn’t forgotten its local heritage – there are small nods to Vietnamese island life in the building materials and the artworks. Striking, high-quality Vietnamese art is displayed throughout the hotel, from paintings in the halls to giant mosaics. The rooms all have private balconies and all the amenities one would expect a five-star to offer, from free wifi and an iPod docking station to fluffy bathrobes and well-equipped, pristine bathrooms.
The infinity pool is saltwater and makes your skin feel really soft, and the patio is surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens full of tropical plants. The poolside cocktail bar serves up potent and inventive drinks with names like coriander madness and purple lava along with chilled towels and water spritzes. You can take your drink down to the private sandy beach to watch the sun set.
Outside the hotel – 5/10
People come to Phu Quoc, for the most part, to chill out. If you get restless, you can take part in the numerous water sports on offer. For people who live in Asia, it’s a weekend getaway – a Swedish guy told me that he’d flown over for the weekend from Singapore with his Australian wife – and for those visiting the country from further abroad, it’s often a rest after a hectic journey through mainland Vietnam. For us, it was the latter, and it was a welcome break, and the perfect way to end a fantastic trip to this fascinating country. If you really want to get out and about, then you can rent a moped – at your own risk – and tour the island, which is known for its fish sauce factories and black pepper farms. There is also the village of Duong Dong nearby, and the fishing village of Ham Ninh.