Boutique Luxury by the Sea
Cham Villas shows why it’s still on top of its game
WHILE NEWER PROPERTIES have opened up on the Phan Thiet-Mui Ne stretch in recent years, the luxury boutique Cham Villas proudly traces its roots to before this millennium, when a German-Vietnamese couple purchased a one hectare plot of land on the then untouched, undeveloped seaside as a retirement investment. When local authorities asked owners to develop the land for tourism a few years later, Cham Villas was born.
Since opening in 2004 with 12 villas, the property has grown only slightly to its current 18 villas (6 Beach Front and 12 Garden), eschewing the trend of packing rooms on top of rooms, and instead opting for the luxury of space. After visiting the Cham Museum in Danang, the owners were smitten with the Cham civilization which once ruled Vietnam’s central coast, including Mui Ne/Phan Thiet. Noticing the sculptures were similar to ones they had seen while vacationing in Bali, the concept came together of creating a small, boutique hotel set in lush gardens.
It doesn’t take a botanophile to be impressed by the stunning gardens, the result of more than a decade of tireless work by the six-man groundskeeping team. From the main road all the way to the beach, the landscaping is immaculate, starting with grass so fine as to be perfectly at home at any worldclass golf course. The eye is then drawn upwards, starting with low, ornamental bushes and grasses with pops of bright red from ginger flowers, on up to giant bougainvillea trellises and hanging berries and flowers, and culminating in majestic betel nut and coconut palm trees. The grounds are so lush, even the plants have plants – orchids blooming out of coconut shells deftly attached to tree trunks. With over a hundred species of plants, the resort could practically charge admission. Lush greenery also surrounds the gorgeous pool, tiled in shades of avocado and surrounded by beautiful traveller’s palms and other leafy trees, providing both shade and privacy.
The luxury of space and privacy extends to the villas themselves, each comprised of a spacious bedroom, sizable outdoor terrace with seating area, and lovely bathroom with sunken stone bathtub and rainfall shower with a large picture window looking out to an enclosed sculpture garden, bringing the outdoors in.
Another perk of staking a claim early in the game is Cham Villa’s idyllic stretch of powdery white sand beach, as wide as it is long. We could’ve easily spent the entire day on the immaculately combed beach, watching colorful kite surfers taking advantage of the afternoon winds.
Cham Villas’ subtle touch of luxury is evidenced in its high staff ratio (more than four staff to every villa) who have matured along with the property, having mastered the art of knowing when to be proactively helpful and when to fade into the background. We saw it time and again during our stay—in the beach staff who came by with chilled face towels, in the turndown service where premium chocolates were left on the bedside table, and in the wait staff at Cham Garden Restaurant, the resort’s casualchic restaurant. With relaxing vibes provided by jazzy mood music and views of the garden and pool, Cham Garden showcases Vietnamese and Vietnamese fusion cuisine along with a selection of international favorites. One evening, we tried the scrumptious Beef Duo, one sautéed with zucchini in oyster sauce and the other with mango in a smooth curry sauce, both stylishly presented in rice paper boats. Fusion dishes include the Chicken Hoi Sin with tomato and mango concasse, exotic yet familiar for Western guests.
Cham Villas also owns the German restaurant, Ratinger Löwe, next door, for an authentic, upscale slice of Deutschland. The European ambiance is set by warm brick walls, dark wood furnishings,
waitresses in barmaid uniforms, all centered around a working replica of the Benz Pantent Motorwagen, the world’s first automobile. Wagon wheel chandeliers are inspired by the coat of arms from the German town of Ratingen, the restaurant’s namesake who approved its use. It feels surreal to be sitting on the Vietnamese coast, enjoying homemade German sausages with sauerkraut and red cabbage and the Geschmorter Rehrucken, a thick steak of roasted venison with wild mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce and pillowy potato dumplings, all served with a boat of extra juniper gravy.
Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesosse, wonderfully thin slices of apple layered with pastry and sliced almonds in a warm vanilla sauce ends our trip to the Fatherland in sweet, sweet style. A perk of a Cham Villas stay is enjoying both kitchens, combining to turn out exquisite pastries, sausages and cold cuts on site, as well as divine breads including grey, dark, rye and sesame.
While decidedly low-key, the boutique Cham Villas with its luxurious trifecta of spacious grounds, excellent cuisine and private villas continues to show why it’s consistently one of the top-rated hotels in the area.