(No.3, Vol.7,Jun-Jul 2017 Vietnam Heritage Magazine,Advertorial)
Having just had one new experience of an aroma, I received a text message inviting me to another one. I never knew before that the small of a whole roasting dog was actually quite pleasant, just as most roasts are. My daughter had warned me that members of my sister-in-law with whom we were spending a public holiday had slaughtered a dog, but this had not prepared me for this sight and smell as I sat out resting in the courtyard of my sister-in-lawâ€™s dragon fruit farm house. Then there was a buzz on the phone and I read a message saying that as I was already in the vicinity and would I like to experience the delights of â€˜The Aroma Beach Resort and Spaâ€™ at Phan Thiet?
A more idyllic setting for a seaside sojourn you could not wish for. The creation of a promontory makes for a secluded yellow sandy beach. The resort slopes down a bank at an angle of around forty degrees, making it steep enough as well large enough to warrant a buggy to take you and your baggage to your room. These rooms are housed in bungalows villas, suites and superior suites. The last two categories have their own indoor or outdoor Jacuzzis. All the accommodation is of mock stucco walls with thatch and bamboo roofs giving you the feeling of living in a rustic village of yesteryear. The location is near the ancient Cham towers of Poshanu and is not actually in Mui Ne, but just before, in Phu Hai ward of Phan Thiet City.
All of this is set in among the most beautiful of tropical gardens. Each section of the resort is named after the flower which prominently grows around it. There is jasmine, lemongrass, plumeria, peppermint,frangipani and nenuphar (water lily). This, of course, along with the empty bird cages placed among the trees attracts the bird life. Very prominent and tame enough for you to get up close are the rufous-bodied hoopoes with their regal crest of feathers on their heads, which always appear in pairs with their long curved bills picking out the worms on the lawns. Seated out on my upper floor balcony, I was also entertained by a beautiful slinky lizard half way up a coconut tree below me.
One might think the hotel takes its name from the fragrances of its abundant flowers, but there is more to it than that. In the room, there was an oil burner with a small candle to vaporize the oil. There is an oil for everyday of the week – lemongrass, rose, sweet orange, peppermint, ginger grass, cajuput and lavender. We had to call reception for it, but a staff member was round in a jiffy,had everything lit and our room was smelling as sweetly as a spa for the rest of the evening. Here I have to commend the friendly and well- trained staff. They will not let you carry a bag for half a metre!
This hotel is all about relaxing and restoring body and soul. Fittingly, there is a spa centre with full massage services,sauna and steam bath and you work out at the fully equipped gymnasium next to it. For shoulder exercise, there is even a mini-golf course. If you do not want to take a dip in the vast blue ocean, there is a full-length swimming pool by the beach. The kids are well-catered for, as there is a paddling pool for them and a bamboo see-saw, swings and a springy set out on a lawn and under shady trees. The Tansy Restaurant, serving Vietnamese,Asian and European delights have an outdoor area where you can enjoy a romantic evening. We sat there for breakfast. The beach is a working one-not just for holiday makers. We thought we were starting the day early but we watched as fisher folk in basket boats landed their first haul of the day.
A beach holiday can be a bit boring, but there is plenty to do outside near the hotel and in BinhThuan Province. Within walking distance, there is the Sand Sculpture Exhibition with works on Vietnamese and World fairy tale themes by artists from thirteen different countries and there is a cultural show in an open air theatre called â€˜The Fishermen Showâ€™. A taxi ride will take you to the Poshanu towers, a relic from one of the world’s most amazing cultures. The hotel also organises excursions. There is a day trip to the nineteenth century Co Thach Pagoda set in a grotto high on a hill above a coloured pebble beach and there a half day trips to the Ke Ga (Chicken Coop) lighthouse on an islet reached by canoe or basket boat and to the famous white dunes of Mui Ne.
Vietnam can be noisy, hectic and hard work even for the tourist. If you want to spend a few quiet days in a rustic setting but with all modern comforts and the possibility of some rewarding activities, this could be the place for you. The gardens are sheer paradise, but luckily apple trees cannot grow here and the lemongrass wards off snakes. Also I was with the wife, so no woman here led me into temptation – just blue sky, yellow sand and greenery!