Amanoi, nestled in the Nhin Thuan province of South Central Vietnam, is a hark back to a slow life.
By: Akanksha Maker
Posted on: June 13, 2023
LF Says: ★★★★★
On a recent trip to the capital of Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh - or Saigon as it was formerly known, I had a chance to experience Amanoi in the Nhin Thuan region of the Southeast Asian country. Having explored several other South Asian countries, I was quite excited to take on my first adventure in this gorgeous destination - which had been on my bucket list for a while.
Travelling from the busy, fast-paced Ho Chi Minh City, the drive from Cam Rahn Airport to Amanoi was a welcome change. Lined by the fishing village, the winding roads take you on a ride through the mountainous region of Vietnam, while the constant blues of the Vine Hy Bay keep you company. I found myself smiling at the quietude I was already experiencing, and was excited to see how the next three days at Amanoi would unfold.
Situated on the shores of the Vin Hy Bay, the resort is perched on a cliff, with its range of villas and pavilions architecturally planned to integrate with nature.
For those who are new to Aman Resorts, it was founded by Adrian Zecha back in 1988, with the vision of offering “solace to travellers amid simple luxury”. Before my sojourn, I stumbled upon interviews with the legendary, now 90 years old, Mr. Zecha, who talks about how the Aman brand is intuitive, minimal and the opposite of opulence. Ironic for a luxury brand! And Vlad Doronin, who acquired Aman Resorts in 2014, has continued with the founder’s philosophy. In the course of three days in the 42 hectares Amanoi, I understood how.
The resort is located one hour away from Cam Rahn Airport of Nha Trang, within Nui Chua National Park, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Situated on the shores of the Vin Hy Bay, the resort is perched on a cliff, with its range of villas and pavilions architecturally planned to integrate with nature.
Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston Architects, Amanoi’s architecture is one of its key highlights. The aesthetic is simple, drenched in the symmetry of lines and sustainable materials. Vietnamese design sensibilities blend with modern finishing touches across all of Amanoi - which is simply an architectural spectacle.
My pool villa was expansive with the entire interior space designed in a functional, vertical fashion. The exterior, intermingling with the views of the daunting mountains and the turquoise waters of the ocean, offered multiple viewing spots of the quiet fishing village around. You’re one with nature, and the only sounds you hear is of the crickets, salamanders and rare birds that call Nui Chua National Park their home.
Right from the time I entered (leaving my shoes outside as a symbol of respect), I am invited into an abode of comfort and subtle elegance. I spent my mornings with some Nespresso coffee, whilst soaking in the views of the bay. Afternoons were spent lounging in one of the three pools which were accessible to me (my personal pool at the villa, the cliff pool that overlooks a panoramic view of the mountains and the beach pool). I quite enjoyed indulging in the local fruits which the house-keeping staff placed for me each evening.
It’s absolutely lovely how the Aman staff finds low-key ways to surprise you; whether it was local Vietnamese grounded coffee that was left on my bed to take back home, the neatly tied charging cables, hand-written notes that welcomed me to my “home” or the perfect placement of my in-room slippers and bathrobe; I truly felt welcomed into a familial haven. The staff is interactive and their personal attention to detail, from your preferences to plans, makes you feel pampered and special at every step. It’s the simple things that make a difference at Amanoi; how the staff recognised me by my first name wherever I went, or the instant buggy pickups intuitively waiting for me - the service is seamless and harmonious.
Amanoi offers a range of experiences to its guests to soak in the nuances of Vietnamese culture and nature. I chose to go on a snorkelling expedition to explore the waters that circle the resort. We set out early at 8am, cruising around the natural mountainous formations that surround the shores. Reaching a coral reef, I put on my snorkelling gear and jumped in, and soon, I was surrounded by vivid schools of fish. The vibrancy of the oceanic animals enthralled me, as I swam through currents witnessing colourful clown fish, star fish, sea urchins and more. It was a magical feeling to be one with nature, amid a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Safety wise, the Aman staff ensures you’re never alone. I had their watchful but distant eyes on my all throughout, even though I assured them I was a certified scuba diver.
Feeling reinvigorated, and motivated, I extended my underwater trip to go snorkelling near the resort’s beach as well, to further explore this magical blue world. A dip in the resort’s beach club pool followed, and the staff pampered me with multiple ginger beers that serve as quite a relief in the soaring temperatures of South Central Vietnam.
You’re one with nature, and the only sounds you hear is of the crickets, salamanders and rare birds that call Nui Chua National Park their home.
One of my other top experiences here has to be a personal painting class that I took up with a Vietnamese painter. I was invited early morning at the beach, where a canopied area with oil paints and brushes, a ready painting and a blank canvas waited for me. I’m welcomed with an amiable “Xin Chao” by the local artist, and given painstaking instructions on how I must approach the process of painting what I see before me - the sun, the azure waters, rugged mountains and a powder blue sky. Taking my time, over the course of two hours, I created my own work of art!
The range of experiences one can embark upon at Amanoi is exhaustive. Whether it’s a cliff side intimate dinner at the resort’s magnificent cliff pool that merges with the ocean and the horizon, or a trek where you summit the Goga Peak to view sunrise, there’s something for everyone. Vietnamese cooking classes, cultural excursions to nearby temples, an exploration of the nearby fishing village and bespoke dinners which include the blessings of a local Sham priest (indigenous people of the region) can also be chosen.
In my culinary experiences at the resort, I chose local dishes to taste the regional flavours. The a la carte breakfast menu is expansive, and my usuals consisted of Vietnamese coffee (homegrown coffee with condensed milk), eggs Benedict, fresh croissants, prosciutto, ham, and cheese (including cambert and mortadella).
Evening high teas following either a spa session or a dip in one of the pools were much looked forward to. Spoilt for choice with curated hors de oeuvres and desserts, including coconut flan, homegrown fruits and Vietnamese rolls, I sampled the high teas in the evenings, usually along with a side of cold young coconut.
Since we are in the south, the pho comes with mixing sauces, a meyer lemon and fresh herbs.
For dinner, upon request, the restaurant manager made me a small portion of Vietnamese chicken pho (it is traditionally with beef), which as Anh, a member of the restaurant team explains, differs as per north and south Vietnam. Since we are in the south, the pho comes with mixing sauces, a meyer lemon and fresh herbs. I opted for an addition of green chillies which enhanced the smoky depth and pungency of the soup created by the charred onions and ginger.
While the food choices are simple, the dishes are wholesome and prepared with a focus on presentation and distinctive flavours. The freshness of the local herbs along with authentic, natural ingredients grown indigenously makes their food straightforward but unique.
In my opinion, what makes this resort (and possibly the other Aman resorts) stand out is its exceptional, warm and personal service. From the moment I stepped out of the plane, to checking back into my flight for Saigon, the journey was made seamless. Instinctual at every step, with a 4-1 staff to guest ratio, the service is impeccable and warm. The “Amanoi family” truly made me feel like home - which was even more special since I was travelling solo.
‘Amanoi’ translates to ‘a peaceful place’ in Sanskrit, and I have to say, it was everything it set out to be - and more.
LF Says: ★★★★★