Anan­tara QUY NHON VIL­LAS

RHEA SARAN es­capes to a pretty Viet­namese coastal re­treat and finds a hid­den gem

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Ev­ery­one loves a get­away. But there’s get­ting away – and then there’s re­ally get­ting away. Anan­tara Quy Nhon Vil­las is firmly in the lat­ter cat­e­gory. Just 26 stand-alone vil­las fronted by a pri­vate beach along a quiet, un­der-the-radar stretch of Viet­namese coast­line. That I was go­ing some­where off the beaten tourist path was clear even as I boarded my Viet­nam Air­lines flight from Hanoi (where you fly in di­rect from Dubai) to coastal Quy Nhon – I was one of only two non-lo­cals on board. From Quy Nhon air­port, the re­sort lies a fur­ther one-hour car ride away. So it’s a jour­ney, but all this travel serves the pur­pose of trans­port­ing you to a part of Viet­nam that has yet to be in­un­dated with vis­i­tors. No one ever said get­ting away – truly get­ting away – was easy.

But, boy, is it worth it. Waking up each morn­ing of my stay at Anan­tara Quy Nhon, I’d sit out on my pri­vate pool deck with a cup of tea and noth­ing but un­in­ter­rupted views of the South China Sea, dot­ted with is­lands, and the oc­ca­sional dis­tant fish­er­man pass­ing in his round bas­ket boat for com­pany.

Just over half the vil­las are set on the pri­vate beach, with di­rect ac­cess on to the soft sand; I loved fall­ing asleep to the sound of waves crash­ing just be­yond the glass pa­tio doors. Ocean-view vil­las are perched slightly up the hill­side, with a higher van­tage point on that post­card­per­fect view. All ac­com­mo­da­tion comes with pri­vate plunge pools, spa­cious decks, airy con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors in muted shades with a pro­fu­sion of wood, and mod-cons like a flat-screen TV and JBL speak­ers for your mu­sic. I liked my plunge pool, but I loved my giant stand-alone bath­tub a lit­tle bit more. Poised in front of a pic­ture win­dow in the large, light-filled bath­room, it looked like it could ac­com­mo­date a fam­ily of four. The tub isn’t the only over­sized thing on hand: the mini­bar is of more maxi pro­por­tions, with a sep­a­rate grape chiller and ad­di­tional ameni­ties like cheese and char­cu­terie in the main fridge.

While the vil­las are com­fort­ably roomy, the re­sort it­self is charm­ingly diminu­tive in size. Guests are wel­comed into an open-air re­cep­tion – with cool lo­cal de­sign fea­tures in­spired by tra­di­tional Viet­namese fish­ing boats

and weav­ing pat­terns – be­fore be­ing whisked on a very short golf-buggy ride to their villa for check-in (hon­estly, you could walk around the grounds in 10 min­utes). There’s the Sea Fire Salt restau­rant, open for break­fast, lunch and din­ner, as well as a bar down by the main in­fin­ity pool, which also serves light bites (think chicken sa­tay, sal­ads, pizza and crab na­chos). A lit­tle glass box of a gym has all the nec­es­sary equip­ment and is open 24 hours… and that sums up the en­tirety of the re­sort. It feels less like a ho­tel than a small, ex­clu­sive res­i­den­tial en­clave – with five-star ser­vice (villa hosts at­tend to all needs).

De­spite there be­ing only one restau­rant, I found a re­fresh­ing va­ri­ety of din­ing on of­fer dur­ing the sev­eral days of my stay, which in­cluded the room ser­vice menu (don’t be afraid to go off-menu, I did one night to great ef­fect). Break­fast runs the gamut from tra­di­tional pho or stir-fried noo­dles to homemade gra­nola and yo­gurt as well as eggs and pas­tries of all kinds. One af­ter­noon I lunched on a spicy tuna poke bowl, an­other saw me din­ing on red snap­per and Viet­namese sticky rice. Viet­nam is fa­mous for its flavoured salts (the re­sort has a va­ri­ety to sprin­kle on to dishes), and one night I ate fresh seafood served on a salt brick. Villa deck bar­be­cues can be ar­ranged, as can Anan­tara’s Spice Spoons cook­ing classes. I learnt to make a car­rot, raw mango and pa­paya salad, sur­pris­ingly light deep-fried spring rolls and bún bò hu, which is my favourite of the var­i­ous Viet­namese noo­dle soups (the broth is deeper, spicier and heav­ier on the lemon­grass – real soul food).

The re­sort’s mis­sion is to deepen its well­ness bent. There’s yoga in the morn­ing, tai chi in the af­ter­noon, and they soon ex­pect to in­tro­duce med­i­ta­tion ses­sions with a lo­cal monk. The Anan­tara Spa here feels like a bit of a haven (note: it is shared with Mi­nor Ho­tels’ AVANI re­sort next door). Perched amid lush green­ery, many treat­ment rooms feel like you’ve en­tered a treehouse for a bit of a jun­gle-spa vibe. My Viet­namese well­ness jour­ney be­gan with a foot rit­ual and ended with a co­conut-milk bath, a typ­i­cal in­gre­di­ent of the re­gion. The mas­sage in be­tween was done Viet­namese-style, which has sim­i­lar­i­ties to Ba­li­nese mas­sage, with long strokes and bend­ing to re­lease ten­sion.

While the re­sort feels like a lit­tle oa­sis, one of the rea­sons to come all this way is also to dis­cover this part of cen­tral Viet­nam. With the Quy Nhon Ex­plorer, Anan­tara of­fers guided tours of some note­wor­thy sights in the area. On my half-day tour, I dis­cov­ered just how cul­tur­ally di­verse Viet­nam is, even just in terms of re­li­gion. We first drove out to a peace­ful river­side church and sem­i­nary, fol­lowed by a climb up to the Banh It Tow­ers, relics of the old

Cham dy­nasty (housed in­side one of the ru­ins was a Hindu god), and fi­nally on to the largest Bud­dhist pagoda in the re­gion. What stood out most was that I was lit­er­ally the only tourist at each site. The Banh It Tow­ers have a feel of Angkor Wat-es­que his­tory and majesty (though of course sig­nif­i­cantly smaller), yet I didn’t have to rock up at 5am to get any chance of see­ing it with­out the hordes; at 10am, I was still the only per­son up there.

Quy Nhon is a get­away, even when you’re not try­ing. And that’s worth the jour­ney alone.

Vil­las from AED 1,947; 0084-2-56-384 0077, anan­tara.com

“HALF THE VIL­LAS ARE SET ON THE PRI­VATE BEACH. I LOVED FALL­ING

ASLEEP TO THE SOUND OF WAVES CRASH­ING”

From top left: Visit the Banh It Tow­ers near Quy Nhon; lo­cal dishes like pho are on the menu; the pri­vate beach; an ocean-view villa; the treehouse-like spa; a treat­ment room over­look­ing the sea

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