Bou­tique Lux­ury by the Sea

Cham Vil­las shows why it’s still on top of its game

Oi Vietnam - - Travel & Leisure - Text by James Pham Im­ages by Quinn Ryan Mat­tingly

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.

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