The sign says: ‘Smile, there’s nothing ice cream can’t solve.’ This is especially true when the ice cream menu changes daily and it’s free – all day! Any problems you may have been contemplating evaporate – along with the ice cream – at Six Senses Con Dao.
In fact, since the resort introduced their guest experience makers aka GEMs, there’s not much that guests have to contemplate at all – it’s all quietly done for you before you even realize you were wanting it. Let me give you examples. Squinting to read the luncheon menu, glasses appear by my elbow. Walking in the hot sun, an umbrella is proffered. Can’t decide which spa treatment to take? Not a problem. Perhaps the options on page 10 of the extensive spa menu might suit. Now that’s what I call anticipation!
A Little Gem
The Con Dao Archipelago of 15 islands is just a 45 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City and the Six Senses resort nestles beneath ‘sleeping elephant’ mountain on its own curved shoreline on Con Son, the largest of the islands. It’s evening by the time we check into our not-so-shabby-beach-chic villa complete with eau-de-Nil private pool where a colourful welcome message is chalked on a small blackboard by our GEM Ivy. We have quite an itinerary over the next couple of days and Ivy resolutely keeps us on track!
The Croissant Test
Executive chef Chris Long has become passionate about local sourcing since moving to Vietnam from his native Yorkshire – that’s real climate change! – and is “trying a bit of everything” to see what grows best in his experimental garden beds. Judging by the abundant herb garden, tall ears of sweetcorn, eggplant, lettuce varieties and water spinach, I think the experiment’s a success. “We’ve just employed a sustainability officer to liaise with the locals. Kitchen waste is used to feed village pigs and we’re educating youngsters about the environment,” said Chris for whom food provenance is the number one ingredient. Given its remote nature, everything is made from scratch and from the croissant test I’ve diligently researched at various establishments over the past three weeks (well somebody has to do it!) I can report that Chris’s croissants top the score card!
Dark Past, Bright Future
Unlike many ‘fly and flop’ island vacations, there’s plenty to experience on Con Son, an island where political prisoners incarcerated between 1862 and 1975 once tried to escape from. Now reborn as an island escape for rest and relaxation, we set out to explore its colourful past on the Local Life Tour with Con Son guide Jerry. Enthusiastically sharing her island knowledge, we follow the coastal road as it climbs past fishing boats swaying at anchor to dizzying panoramic vistas. Stopping at one of two temples dedicated to strong women, the air is heavy with the aroma of joss sticks, something we’ll also experience later in the evening at the grave of venerated political agitator Vo Thi Sau in Hang Duong Cemetery where Vietnamese come nightly to pay their respects. Impossible to get lost, we hire a motorbike for some further exploration. At Ben Dam, the island’s picturesque port, there’s the metallic grinding sound of ice being crushed and loaded onto brightly painted fishing boats. Con Son town’s charming, tree-lined streets lead down to the waterfront where locals sit on the sea wall watching teenage boys play beach soccer or sip freshly iced juices at the Con Son cafe. Landscaped civic gardens dotted with dramatic sculptures stretch the length of a promenade populated by motorbikes. The town moves easily with the flow of life and there’s an innocence seldom found anymore reminiscent of simper times.
Spa treatments are synonymous with Six Senses and Dr Aneesh, their resident spirit guru on Con Dao begins his analysis by striking the singing bowl three times. The ringing sounds reverberates through my brain which is hardly surprising given that it’s said to have the same frequency on the brain as gamma rays. Cue Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’…. Working through Ayurvedic or life knowledge principles, Dr Aneesh deduces my humors to be 65% Vata or air – something that moves through everything rather than being full of the hot variety! Discussion inevitably falls to diet and he suggests sweet, sour, salty foods to pacify Vata rather than pungent, bitter or astringent. Fortunately, the consultation comes with a list of pacifying foods. Unfortunately, most of my usual dietary choices are in the ‘foods to avoid’ column!
Six Things 2onthewing likes about Six Senses
Star-gazing at the observatory
Cloth bags to carry home spray cans, plastic bottles and spent batteries to help protect this paradise.
The all-natural Uplifting Facial devised and deftly delivered by Dr Aneesh
Thoughtfully provided wet bathers bag – who doesn’t want that last swim before departure?
Free ice cream – what more can we say!
Not having to think about anything – thank you GEM Ivy!