Good Morning, Vietnam!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

When we were checking out of The Reverie in Saigon, a sumptuous modern hotel with a crazy Rococo vibe, the clerk behind the desk politely asked where we were going next. When I said, “The Amanoi,” his eyes grew wide. “Ah,” he said, “that is a very nice property.”

That was quite the understatement.

One of the most renowned of the 31 properties of the Aman Hotel group, the Amanoi is outstandingly luxe, hidden away in the midst of Nui Chua National Park, a natural conservation site and marine reserve in Ninh Thuan Province in southeast Vietnam, overlooking Vinh Hy Bay. It took 3,500 workers three years to build it, as no heavy construction equipment could be brought into the protected park; everything had to arrive by boat. “And when the Beach Club building wasn’t quite right,” the charming General Manager Nicholas Pillet told me, “they tore it down and started all over again.”

This attention to detail suffuses every element of the Amanoi experience. Starting with the rooms. Or rather, each guest is given a separate, secluded Pavilion or Villa, many with their own pools—there are only 30 in total—so you feel as if you’ve dropped into a private home. One without any pesky neighbors or other guests in sight.

Families or groups of friends can also book one of the five residences, which feature one large central villa containing a living room, dining room, and kitchen overlooking an enormous pool, as well as 2–5 separate pavilions, giving you the option of retreating to the privacy of your own hideaway when the in-laws become a bit too much. Every Residence comes with its own chef, who will whip up the Asian or Western meals of your choice, as well as your own own butler, who will attend to your every need.

Those who desire even more privacy can book one of the two Spa Houses, which is my idea of heaven. The lower floor of each Spa House is its own mini-spa with two treatment beds for the three daily treatments, a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and pool. “Many of our guests never leave their Spa House once they arrive,” Monsieur Pillet said. “All their meals can be served in the House while they’re unwinding.”

Another way to unwind is with one of three detoxifying Wellness Immersion programs custom-tailored to your needs by the highly trained staff at the Spa. Choose either Longevity, Rejuvenation and Detoxification; Health, Movement and Weight Management; or Mindfulness, Relaxation, and Stress Control. Or you can visit the Spa for a Vietnamese massage, a facial, an afternoon in the Hammam, or to take one of the morning exercise classes on the edge of Lotus Lake. As I did my asanas under the gentle direction a true yogi from India, the wind rippling the water as hungry koi splashed in search of food, I felt marvelously far away from the honking Ubers of city life.

One of the most unique features at the Amanoi is the Aman Buggy. Because the property is so sprawling and each room is so wonderfully isolated, guests simply call the front desk when they wish to leave the haven of their Villa, and a few minutes later a Vietnamese-style golf cart arrives to whisk you off.

We stayed in one pavilion overlooking Lotus Lake, and another one overlooking the bay, where the lamps of hundreds of local fishermen illuminated the calm waters at night like magical fairy lights. The microclimate of this part of Vietnam is surprisingly arid, so while it’s very hot year-round, it’s rarely humid or constantly raining and gloomy as it can be in Hanoi.

There are dozens of available activities for sightseeing and house visits in a nearby village, sunrise hiking in Nui Chua Park, and water sports and snorkeling. There is a lovely, quiet bar and main restaurant off the lobby—which has one of the most stunning staircases you’ll ever climb to check in—as well as one at the Beach Club; the seafood is locally sourced and the herbs and vegetables are grown in the Amanoi’s organic garden. Every afternoon we went to the restaurant for the free afternoon tea party, where we were served the local specialty, Bánh xèo, tiny rice pancakes cooked in a clay mold and topped with shrimp or tofu or vegetables, and drank endless cups of Vietnamese coffee or jasmine tea. The staff will gladly set up an outdoor table for a champagne breakfast or a twilight dine—the most luxe version of a picnic you’ll ever have—yet for us nothing was more enticing than sipping the homemade ginger beer while lounging by one of the two pools, perfectly content to gaze blissfully at the shifting blue of the sea.


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