Star-struck in Vietnam: Actress Anna Friel unwinds with her daughter on a remote and blissful eco-friendly island in Vietnam

  • Anna Friel visited Six Senses Con Dao with ten-year-old daughter Gracie
  • In a bid to improve the ecological footprint, all villas come with bicycles 
  • Site is near Con Dao Prison which Friel says is definitely 'important to see'

'You want an Anna juice?’ I am asked every morning at breakfast. Yes, please, although I never quite work out what exactly is in it — some combination of greens and home-made live yoghurt. But it does the trick and after a couple of days, I’m starting to feel human again.

But other factors are at play — and I have a feeling they might just be making a difference, too. I am on a remote island off Vietnam’s south-east coast, staying at Six Senses Con Dao with my ten-year-old daughter Gracie.

If you can’t rediscover your mojo here then forget it. And what a total contrast from the dark and complex world of Marcella, the ITV drama I finished a few days before heading out.

The general ethos behind Six Senses is a commitment to improving the ecological and carbon footprint. For example, all villas come with bicycles

The general ethos behind Six Senses is a commitment to improving the ecological and carbon footprint. For example, all villas come with bicycles

The hotel is a short flight (just under an hour) from the mad streets of Saigon and is protected by lush, forest-clad mountains on a mile-long stretch of sand.

Our villa, one of 50, has been designed to reflect the natural surroundings. It’s wonderfully luxurious, but what I love is the complete absence of disingenuous smiles from the staff, no hanging around for tips, and the way nothing is too much trouble.

The general ethos behind Six Senses is a commitment to improving the ecological and carbon footprint. For example, all villas come with bicycles although if you can’t face the thought of peddling, there are golf buggies.

After a couple of days, I worry that I’ve come during a quiet period, but I later learn it’s at maximum capacity. It’s so spaced out that you can go a whole day on the beach without seeing another soul.

My fellow island companions are a mix of couples and families. I get the impression that they think I am Gracie’s nanny because this is not an obvious choice for a mother-and-daughter holiday. It’s a long way to go and it’s expensive, but neither of us will ever forget it.

Bonding: Anna Friel and 10-year-old Gracie stayed at Six Senses Con Dao on a remote island off Vietnam’s south-east coast

Bonding: Anna Friel and 10-year-old Gracie stayed at Six Senses Con Dao on a remote island off Vietnam’s south-east coast

The sea is like a giant bath. It has gentle waves, so Gracie and I paddle-board almost every day. I do my daily exercise in the pristine pool — a set routine that requires me to hold onto the pool-side to perform a series of Pilates moves.

A short drive away is Con Dao Prison — a haunting reminder of the island’s former use as a prison colony. The jail was built in 1861 by the French and used during the Vietnam War to house the Vietcong and anyone who was against the U.S.-backed Saigon government. It was cruel in the extreme. Most visitors will not want to linger, but it’s important to see it.

Back in the world of five-star luxury, we have our own GEM (or private butler) and a gem she proves to be. She asks what activities we want to do on any given day or if we want our villa cleaned, even what kind of pillow we prefer.

The hotel spa is exceptional. I have five massages and also take part in a singing bowl meditation session with Gracie. Singing bowls are a type of hand-crafted bowl, that looks a little like a metal pestle and mortar, in which a baton circulates to produce a soothing sound.

A short drive away is Con Dao Prison — a haunting reminder of the island’s former use as a prison colony

A short drive away is Con Dao Prison — a haunting reminder of the island’s former use as a prison colony

Probably not Gracie’s first choice of activity, but I think she still enjoys it and has more patience than me.

I look at her and reflect on what my holidays were like at the same age.

As a child, I longed to go on a package tour with friends but, instead, my parents insisted on the long drive from Rochdale to gites somewhere in the middle of France.

We did the same trip every year, but at least I learnt French, which comes in handy at Six Senses when I find myself playing the interpreter for Gracie with her new Parisian friend from the resorts Kids’ Club.

The only real adult conversation I have is with Andy, the talented and charming head chef from Yorkshire. But the lack of grown-up dialogue doesn’t bother me one bit. Then Gracie announces that our stay amounts to the best holiday she’s ever had.

I take this as a huge compliment given that it’s just the two of us. And agree wholeheartedly.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com, 020 8682 5060) offers seven nights’ B&B at Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnam from £2,450 pp based on two sharing. Price includes return flights and private airport transfers 

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About Văn Khang Nguyễn

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