From afar, the blue-green rooftops of Amanoi barely stand out against the scrubby, verdant landscape of this quiet coastal corner of southern Vietnam. Up close, though, it's quickly apparent how the Aman hotel chain has upped the ante in Vietnam's nascent but growing luxury travel market. The uber chic guest pavilions and villas are spread out over a 40-hectare property, making little white buggies the indispensable mode of transportation. Here and there, large boulders dot the landscape, seemingly dropped down from the sky.
Getting to Amanoi is no easy feat. It's a 90-minute drive from the closest airport, which is a one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City and a nearly two-hour hop from Hanoi. The journey, though, is well worth it. The hotel feels remote, secluded and special. It sits next to the 29,000 hectare Nui Chua National Park, known for its adorable black-shanked douc monkeys, and just down the road from a small fishing village.
Cruising into the property, guests pass the tennis courts but little else on the winding, uphill drive to the central pavilion. Take the wide staircase to the main restaurant, where the terrace overlooks cliffs, valleys and the East Sea (the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea). The upper area is breezy and the bar comes complete with comfy brown-leather chairs and charming rockers. In the library, even board games are styled: their garish boxes replaced by simple black ones with stencilled names. The guest pavilions and villas feel contemporary, but also have traditional Vietnamese touches such as woven-grass ceilings and long, red hanging lamps.
Room with a view
You can't go wrong here. The ultra-private pavilions and villas overlook either the park, a lake or Vinh Hy Bay and the sea. We stayed in a pool pavilion and enjoyed waking up at dawn to watch the fishing boats chug back ashore and hear the birds chatter in the trees.
Definitely it's the wealth of health and recreation options. In particular, the two pools: One is on a cliff (#stunningview) and the other is at the beach club, just metres from the shore. Both are suitable for soaking and laps.
If I could change one thing
As the high-end hotel industry expands in Asia, finding staff proficient in English continues to be a challenge. Amanoi is no exception. Some of our requests were met with smiles and nods, but confused follow through. In one case, we asked our buggy driver to take us back to our room and ended up at the beach club. There are strong English speakers on staff, but not enough of them.
Whom you'll meet
Well-off Russians and Europeans on an extended break, along with Chinese enjoying a holiday weekend. In low season, you'll hardly see anyone. Often we felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Amanoi, Vinh Hy Village, Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam; 36 pavilions and villas from $900 (U.S.); amanresorts.com.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.