Amanoi

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Hotel - Su­san Kuro­sawa

You know what to ex­pect at an Aman­re­sorts prop­erty and rarely, if ever, do they dis­ap­point. Aside from the group’s ur­ban and her­itage lo­cales (Venice comes to mind, as does Mon­tene­gro, Bhutan and Galle Fort in Sri Lanka), the tem­plate is of a me­an­der­ing vil­lage-like en­clave with des­ti­na­tion-spe­cific ar­chi­tec­ture and a firm sense of pri­vacy. If there were a vol­ume con­trol, the mood would be for­ever set to low and hushed.

The clifftop Amanoi, 55km south of Cam Ranh Air­port, in Ninh Thuan Prov­ince on Viet­nam’s cen­tral coast, ful­fils the brief with great style and a real sense of oa­sis. Oc­cu­py­ing a 42.2ha ex­panse, it is the only ac­com­mo­da­tion within the 24,000ha Nui Chua Na­tional Park, cov­er­ing marine and coastal habi­tats, hid­den coves (and caves) and stud­ded with boul­ders and rocky pin­na­cles so sculp­tural they look man­made. It is a dry and scrubby land­scape rem­i­nis­cent of Sar­dinia; the re­sort can ar­range guides for hikes or bird-watch­ing ex­pe­di­tions.

The 31 free-stand­ing guest pavil­ions (many with pri­vate pools) have pitched grey-tiled roofs and low eaves that mimic Viet­namese tem­ple ar­chi­tec­ture, are su­per­spa­cious and ar­ranged in squig­gly rows. The prop­erty is perched like a belvedere and the ter­race off its Cen­tral Pav­il­ion, set with cush­ioned seat­ing, could well be on the Amalfi Coast or high atop the isle of Capri. The boats that dot Vinh Hy Bay and the East Sea are fish­ing trawlers, not bil­lion­aires’ yachts, but it is a mag­i­cal, ver­ti­cal view repli­cated at vary­ing an­gles from the decks of front-row ac­com­mo­da­tion.

De­signed by Asia-based Jean-Michel Gathy, a favourite of Aman­re­sorts, all is airy and serene, with an al­most Ja­panese aes­thetic of slid­ing doors, shrine­like colon­nades and un­clut­tered spa­ces. The pal­ette is uni­formly of plain, pale oak and dark ce­ment; Viet­namese an­tiques and ap­po­site art­works are dis­creetly dis­played, there are bowls of tuberose and creamy or­chids, and hang­ings of gem-coloured raw silk. Guests (cou­ples, mostly) do not gather in gre­gar­i­ous groups although the bar is con­vivial each evening, es­pe­cially at the long counter where set in a row are leather tub chairs, each with its own ta­ble-lamp. Ir­re­sistible con­coc­tions in­clude the likes of a mango bellini or mango and cin­na­mon mo­jito.

There are five ac­com­mo­da­tion cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing pri­vate pool pavil­ions. If mind­ful of bud­get, the ac­com­mo­da­tion with­out pools has an iden­ti­cal lay­out and the big cliff and beach pools are ideal for dip­ping; ask for a pav­il­ion next to the main fa­cil­i­ties (Ocean Pavil­ions 1 or 2 would be ideal) from where it’s a short walk to the higher pool. If mo­bil­ity is an is­sue, avoid the lower pavil­ions, such as mine (No 15; no pool), where the con­sid­er­able flights of steps are in­ad­e­quately lit af­ter dark. Su­san Kuro­sawa is The Aus­tralian’s travel edi­tor.

DINING

Meals are served in the Main Pav­il­ion, in­doors or out, and that al fresco ter­race is the place to be for break­fast omelets thick with crab­meat and topped with a gar­den’s worth of green­ery, or Bri­tish-born ex­ec­u­tive chef Daniel Wood­bridge’s de­gus­ta­tion din­ners of Viet­namese del­i­ca­cies, in­clud­ing fra­grant clay­pot dishes, ba­nana blos­som salad and sea bass wrapped in turmeric leaves. Gulp young co­conut juice fresh from the fruit or gorge on pas­sion­fruit souf­fle with white choco­late sor­bet.

Amanoi can ar­range its minibus to take you to nearby Binh Hung where boats put­ter out to float­ing restau­rants. The re­sort’s Aus­tralian gen­eral manager, Sean Flake­lar, sug­gests Madam Hong’s where a seafood feast will cost about $20, in­clud­ing char­coal-grilled lob­ster with dip­ping bowls of lime and white pep­per. Choose your catch from tanks un­der the pon­toon and dine at rick­ety ta­bles; it is all enor­mous fun. The lo­cals string up ham­mocks and take naps af­ter lunch.

EV­ERY­ONE’S TALK­ING ABOUT

This area is ripe for dis­cov­ery, es­pe­cially as the nearby sprawl­ing coastal city of Nha Trang is in­creas­ingly over­taken by char­ter flights from Vladi­vos­tok and pack­aged hol­i­day-mak­ers. In a coun­try that is in dan­ger of be­ing over­whelmed with tourism, Amanoi feels all the more like a trea­sured sanc­tu­ary. The word is spread­ing about the party po­ten­tial of a clutch of pri­vately owned Aman Vil­las, each with four or five bed­rooms, big pools and live-in cook and house­keeper.

HOT TIPS

Com­pli­men­tary af­ter­noon tea is served on the ter­race from 3.30pm to 5pm, with savoury lit­tle rice cakes cooked on the spot over a char­coal burner. They slide down well be­tween sips of iced Viet­namese cof­fee sweet­ened with con­densed milk.

The spa sits be­side a lo­tus-filled lake, with pavil­ions linked by paths and a pair of hamam-style hy­drother­apy suites that can be booked for steams, hot and cold plunges, and Turk­ish-in­spired treat­ments. The staff know lit­tle English but “spa speak” is uni­ver­sal and they are ex­pert and at­ten­tive. Go for a 90-minute Viet­namese mas­sage per­formed by the en­er­getic Mrs Chi, and wind up with a co­conut hair bath.

STEP­PING OUT

Ask for a buggy to take you to the re­sort’s beach club where there’s a 50m-long pool, late break­fast and lunch menu (try the chunky fish­er­man’s soup) and a cove set with loungers and equip­ment such as kayaks and snorkelling gear. The reefs brim with coral, the sand is soft, the pale turquoise wa­ter is de­light­fully clear — call for a pic­nic.

ESSEN­TIALS

Amanoi, Vinh Hy Vil­lage, Ninh Thuan Prov­ince, Viet­nam; + 84 68 377 0777; aman­re­sorts.com. Abercrombie & Kent has a Hide­away: Amanoi pack­age of four nights in an Ocean Pav­il­ion, re­turn air­port trans­fers from Nha Trang, daily break­fasts and a pri­vate Binh Hung is­land tour and lunch. From $US2240 a per­son; aber­crom­biekent.com.au.

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04 01 The Amanoi beach club 02 Turquoise views over Vinh Hy Bay 03 The al fresco dining ter­race 04 A pool pav­il­ion bath­room 05 Pool pav­il­ion bed­room and lounge

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