For almost two weeks I’ve been bed and couch-ridden, overcoming a rather surprising episode of viral meningitis that practically occurred overnight, out of nowhere, and resulted in one week in hospital hooked up to an antibiotic and anti-viral drip with a rather painful lumber puncture procedure and consequently an additional week of house-rest where I have been instructed to do nothing for seven entire days. A lifetime for someone who is just a lil’ bit hyper and not-so-talented at staying still.
All this empty and lengthy time to think has made me consider a lot of things amid my tv watching and sleeping, like fantasizing about where in the world I’d rather be right now. I came to the conclusion that it should be somewhere relaxed. Somewhere stress-free, overflowing with colour, with a tropical atmosphere and mouth-watering food. Somewhere like Con Dao Island off the coast of Southern Vietnam.
Ironically, I have Typhoon Kalmaegi to thank for leading me to Con Dao Island three months ago, perhaps the most relaxed travel experience I’ve encountered in my globe-trotting years. We (marvelous Moe and I) were originally booked on a highly anticipated and coveted junk cruise in Halong Bay when Typhoon Kalmaegi’s sudden and angry appearance forced us to make rapid changes to our travel plans to avoid spending our precious last days hauled up in our Hanoi hotel in the humidity, waiting for our long flight home.
A lengthy Google search of Vietnam’s most popular holiday destinations resulted in two possible options: Con Dao Island in the Southeast region of Vietnam and Phu Quoc Island. According to the search engine, the weather in Con Dao was more promising and it was an easy flight from Ho Chi Minh City in the south, so Con Dao it was. We used the money refunded from out Junk tour to cover the costs of Six Senses Con Dao, a resort nestled at the heart of the island. Then, the next morning we raced Typhoon Kalmaegi out of Hanoi, before all flights were grounded. My idea of a holiday nightmare.
Believe me when I say that I never used to be a lie-by-the-pool or tan-on-the-beach kinda gal. Sand irritated me and I dressed head to toe in long clothing to avoid the kind of sunburn experience that lead to freckles breaking out across my nose. My gorgeous and tanned mum would laugh at me from the water, trying to coax me into the ocean to experience some much needed vitamin D. These days (many years later), I love the rare dose of pool-side luxury and humidity. It is my travel weakness. My guilty pleasure.
After racing the typhoon out of Hanoi to the safety of Saigon, a rather scary looking and tiny plane delivered us safely to the Con Dao Airport in the early afternoon. On arrival, we were greeted by the warm smiles of the local Six Senses staff, who provided us each with a refreshing drink and lightly infused hand-towel. In comparison to Six Senses Ninh Van Bay resort where we had recently stayed on the coast, this encounter was laidback and authentic. There was less of a commercial edge and I felt my everyday anxiety melt away.
We drove the short and scenic coastal road to the resort, passing by lone locals on their mopeds or push bikes and stunning coastline on our way to the cutting-edge and eco-friendly Six Senses Con Dao Island.
In our haste, we had thrown our credit card details onto the computer and booked an Ocean View Duplex Pool Villa right on the beachfront. When I walked to the edge of the infinity pool, overlooking the stunning bay I was overwhelmed by a sense of calm. A real sense of calm; one that infiltrates your mind and body and makes you feel entirely at peace.
Our ocean view villa had a chic-rustic interior and was so obviously designed for the purpose of relaxation. There was an ipod dock for playing our own music, a luxuriously veiled bed, large first floor bathroom and of course the charming infinity pool stretching off out to sea. I meandered upstairs and opened the double glass doors of our bedroom and wandered barefoot out onto the balcony, watching as a couple enjoyed a romantic afternoon stroll up the beach hand in hand.
Moe and I spent the afternoon splashing around in our private pool and drinking in the mellow glow of the pink sky bleeding into the clouds as the sun graciously dipped below the horizon. After another month travelling together, I felt like I had come to know Moe even better than before. Especially his thoughtfulness and care-free nature that I’m sure had barely lifted his heart rate a day in his entire life. I couldn’t have picked someone more polar opposite to myself if I had consciously tried. I was the eccentric, irrational and bubbly girl and him the sensible, quiet and considerate boy.
The beach directly across from us remained untouched for most of the day apart from the odd guest trying their luck at paddle boarding. At the edge of the bay, the postcard-perfect mountain soon became a silhouette against the darkening sky.
In the evening, we pried our relaxed selves away from the rustic villa and ventured through the lantern-lit pathway to the bar where we ordered the most exotic-sounding cocktails on the menu. In most cases (and now I have a full time job) we are both very much of the you-only-live-once-might-as-well-enjoy-it book of life when we travel. After all, as someone wise once told me, you can’t take your money with you when you leave this world.
After a delicious dinner at the fine onsite restaurant serving an array of mouth-watering specialties we roamed back along the beach to our villa. On the way, Moe took pictures of the far off stars and I decided to lie fully in the sand, dragging Moe down with me to appreciate the unblemished dark night’s sky and the soft ebb and flow of the tide at my feet. I was having one of those romantic, rose-coloured moments where I simply had to appreciate what we had right then and there. Moe just went along with the flow during that moment, already assured that life with me was sure to be a rollercoaster of intense craziness. I only wish I’d been forewarned about the sand flies, whose bites remain on my legs three months later.
After a blissfully restful night, the following day was predictably spent in the pool, watching the resident water buffalo clear the sand of rocks and debris; a haunting creature drifting up and down the beach. I worried briefly about its welfare and care, and was relieved to see the tender hands of his carer offering attention and affection to the friendly creature.
The breakfast at the resort was ah-ma-zing and made me feel like a hyperactive sugar-addicted child in a candy store. There was everything anyone could ever dream of. Traditional Vietnamese Pho, freshly baked bread, sushi, waffles or pancakes. The highlight for me was the exotic, freshly squeezed juices that were bursting with colour and tropical flavour.
The remainder of our stay at Six Senses was jam-packed with relaxation, exotic cocktails and swimming until our hands shriveled to prunes. In the evening, we walked barefoot along the beach and indulged in a couple’s massage at the health spa. I’ve never been able to stay still enough for massages. And, I’m not sure how I feel about a complete stranger touching my skin. But, this massage was perhaps the most relaxing experience I’d ever had in my entire life (with the exception of a particularly healing hypnotherapy session I once had). I felt my entire body floating a metre off the ground as the masseuse massaged oil into my tense joints. I think I would consider having another massage again, at some point.
Our last night at the resort, and our second last night in the country was perhaps spent at the most amazing dining experience I’ve ever had the joy to experience. The onsite and highly talented chef produced the most deliciously mouth-watering pescetarian meal I’ve ever encountered in my life. Served to us in the charming wine room, tucked behind the main restaurant, we watched through a large window as the chef passionately prepared the food. The best food I’ve ever had. The crab lasagna with crayfish made me want to dance for joy (an unusual reaction to food, I know). It was a shame I couldn’t finish it (due to eyes being larger than my stomach).
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast out by the pool, watching the sun rise and admiring the sheer beauty of the island and its rosy and idyllic surrounds.
The entire experience on Con Dao Island was magical. Amazing. The most relaxed I’ve ever been in my entire twenty five years of life (not including the times I’ve been medically sedated due to my fear of flying).
And so, that’s where I want to be right now. Instead of here. On this rainy day, lying on the couch getting over my surprising dose of menangitis.
But, at least I am blessed to have these wonderful memories to write about and am thankful to be on the path to health again. Ready for my next adventure.