A villa on the river

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LEY BUT­TER­WORTH

NOwords are spo­ken, but as our driver pulls up in­side the gates of the Hoi An Ma­rina Re­sort & Spa our con­tented smiles say it all. Af­ter the hurly-burly of the traf­fic in Viet­nam’s cap­i­tal, Hanoi, and the bus­tle of the an­cient city of Hue, my fam­ily and I are pleas­antly sur­prised by the tran­quil­lity of this haven on the coun­try’s cen­tral coast, just min­utes from the heart of old Hoi An.

The four-star re­sort, which opened in De­cem­ber, is set amid man­i­cured lawns dot­ted with hi­bis­cus and palm trees that stretch to the lan­guid Thu Bon River, where tra­di­tional fish­ing boats ply the peace­ful wa­ters.

Yet just a short walk away is the Ja­panese Cov­ered Bridge, sym­bol of Hoi An’s World Her­itage- listed An­cient Town and its pop­u­lar tourist precinct.

Our one-bed­room Ma­rina Pool Villa is con­fig­ured as an L-shape around a pri­vate spa pool. We have ex­pan­sive views of the river through full-length slid­ing glass doors, and in­ter­net televisions (with free WiFi) in the liv­ing room and bed­room. Our re­quest for an ex­tra bed for our nine-year-old son is cheer­fully met — within min­utes staff have ar­rived to set it up in the liv­ing room.

The re­sort features 12 vil­las with taste­ful ori­en­tal fur­nish­ings and flour­ishes and all the ex­pected mod cons. We are told there are plans to in­crease the num­ber of vil­las to 80 within two years.

While ours is a spa­cious 100sq m, other op­tions in­clude garden vil­las and river view vil­las, slightly smaller at 90sq m and less ex­pen­sive but equally well equipped. The re­sort spa of­fers mas­sages, fa­cials, man­i­cures and pedi­cures and it’s tempt­ing to just re­lax and suc­cumb to pam­per­ing. There are also hands-on cook­ing classes and a food tour with the chef, in­clud­ing a visit to Tra Que or­ganic herb gar­dens, to a vil­lage mar­ket to pur­chase in­gre­di­ents and a re­turn trip to the re­sort by boat. The concierge desk or travel agen­cies in Hoi An proper can also or­gan­ise guided tours to the Cham dy­nasty relics at My Son, the Cham mu­seum at Da Nang, tra­di­tional vil­lages and wa­ter­ways.

But we want to ex­plore in­de­pen­dently at a leisurely clip, so we col­lect com­pli­men­tary bikes from the concierge and trun­dle through the re­sort gates to check out the sur­rounds and get a bite to eat at one of the dozens of ex­cel­lent and in­ex­pen­sive restau­rants nearby.

At night, lanterns are lit all over Hoi An and the her­itage town sparkles in its ro­man­tic river set­ting.

When we re­turn our bikes, we dis­cover our home away from home has been sim­i­larly lit in a mag­i­cal dis­play.

By the next morn­ing, as we tuck into a hearty break­fast on the lawn in front of our villa, un­der trees laden with trop­i­cal fruit, the river lap­ping be­fore us, the cares of the world have com­pletely evap­o­rated. CHECKINGIN In­ter­na­tional cou­ples and fam­i­lies. WHEEL­CHAIR AC­CESS Yes, dis­cuss your ex­act needs when book­ing. BEDTIMEREADING WhenHeaven and Earth Changed Places, a mem­oir by Le Ly Hayslip. STEPPINGOUT Bikes for guests’ use. BRICK­BATS Full din­ing fa­cil­i­ties will not be avail­able un­til the devel­op­ment is com­pleted. BOU­QUETS Ex­cel­lent ser­vice; un­beat­able lo­ca­tion.

Hoi An Ma­rina Re­sort & Spa in cen­tral Viet­nam

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