I’m slightly nervous as I begin my five-hour kiteboarding lesson with Nguyen Thanh Trung, known as Khan, the kiteboarding instructor at Vietnam’s Princess d’Annam Resort & Spa. Khan has assured me that 60% of the people who take a kiteboarding lesson succeed in standing up in the water, but I’m worried. What if I don’t get up? I can’t even manage to keep the small practice kite in the air. It keeps crashing to the sand. How will I ever be able to handle the big kite?
I have come to Ke Ga Bay to learn kiteboarding at the Princess d’Annam Wind Sports Center. The resort is drop-dead gorgeous, Vietnam’s first all-villa luxury boutique resort and only 93 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. I’ve chosen it because it’s one of the windiest places in Southeast Asia. And, except for a few resort guests, the beach is always blissfully deserted. The only other residents are local fishermen. They live about a half-mile down the beach, and at sunrise, I like to go and watch them haul their little round thatched bamboo fishing boats from the South China Sea as their wives and children come to meet them and help sort the fish.
Khan, my 27-year-old instructor, has been teaching kiteboarding for five years. Khan can jump up to 16 feet and do tricks with the kite in the water, like making a 360-degree turn. He flies his kite so smoothly, it looks as though he’s controlling the wind. I’m totally out of control and my kite refuses to stay in the air. “Just steer it like a motorbike or a bicycle”, he says. “Stay in the wind window. The power zone is in front of you. You’re moving it too much.” Once more, my kite crashes to the sand.
When I am finally able to keep the little kite in the air, I don a harness and life vest, and Khan clips me to a six-meter kite. Whhhoaaaa! The kite rises to the sky and I am being pulled by it. My feet slide across the sand. It takes forever to master it, and just when I get it, he makes me fly with one hand, because I’ll need the other to carry my surfboard. To show me the kite’s power, he tells me to grab the back of his harness. Together, we run into the water. The kite rises and pulls us out to sea. I clutch onto the loop in his harness for dear life. How fast are we going? Twenty miles an hour? More? It’s like being pulled by a whale! If we keep going this fast, we’ll end up in Bali.
After our joyride, he shows me how to sit in the sand holding the kite with one hand, slip into the foot slots of the kiteboard, and stand up, heading into the water. I can’t get up. I keep falling over. And then, just as I’m ready to give up, for a brief second, I’m up! I did it!
Princess d’Annam Spa
Grinning like the Cheshire cat, I head to the serene 19,335 square-foot Princess d’Annam Spa for the 90-minute Princess Signature Massage, which the brochure has described as, ‘the rhythm of 1000 waves on your body.’ Loan, my masseuse, washes my feet, then scrubs them with pumice stone and massages my shins and calves. I’m already in heaven as she leads me up marble stairs to the whitest, brightest, airiest, most gorgeous room facing the sea. I climb onto the table and look down through the face cradle at three white gardenias floating in water. The aromas of honey, cloves, coconut oil, and ylang-ylang waft in the air as Loan uses her knuckles, fingers, and elbows to find my pressure points and release all my knots. I am sound asleep when she whispers, “Madame, it’s time.” I can’t believe it’s been 90 minutes.
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