(No.3, Vol.4, Apr-May 2014 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)
Photos: Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort and Spa
Where would you choose to place a new hotel in Hue? The prime place would be alongside the Perfume River, or at least a place with views over it. The area in or around the citadel might also be desirable. Who would dream of the wooded area south of the city, on the road to the Nguyen dynasty Emperorsâ€™ mausoleums? Ten years ago, a family cleared land here and established â€˜The Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort and Spa.â€™ â€˜They said my father was mad to plan a hotel at this place, which was remote, derelict land at the timeâ€™, said Director Le Thi Da Lam. â€˜They all laughed at Christopher Columbusâ€™, I replied. She nodded with a smile.
From the outside, on Minh Mang Road, a fifteen-minute drive from Hue centre, the hotel does announce itself modestly; there is a short, grey wall with a porchway. â€˜This is in accordance with feng shui (Chinese geomancy), which is everywhere in Hue,â€™ explained Miss Lam. â€˜Traditionally, there is a small brick or concrete screen in front of a house, behind which is a much wider area. You have the effect of discovering a secret worldâ€™, continued my guide.
Once over the threshold, I found myself immersed in tropical verdure and the fragrance of tropical flowers. There before me was a â€˜villageâ€™ shopping street. Each store showcased an aspect of Vietnamese culture. Actually, only the textile/clothing and ceramics ones were open. The others were undergoing renovation.
Further on, in the form of a village communal house, I found reception. It was the usual structure, with open-air sides, rounded columns, high beams and rafters with ceramic tiling roofing. However, the wood used was not the normal dark tropical hardwood. It was a refreshing light-brown in colour. It was, in fact, jackfruit wood. Usually, the Vietnamese complete buildings quickly. This was three years in the making. Be sure to look up at the intricately carved rafters when you go. This architectural gem has almost cathedral-like qualities.
After being checked in by a smiling clerk, I was led to my room. It was secluded on a wooded slope overlooking a pond strewn with lotus in flower. Access was by a private stone stairway. Personal, hidden and cosy, I christened it, â€˜The Birds Nestâ€™. I had, in fact, been given the â€˜Honeymoon Bungalowâ€™. Anyhow, it provided every possible amenity for my comfort. Outside, there was a veranda, where I sat out at dusk supping on a sundowner and listening to cicadas singing and frogs croaking. The interior was tastefully decorated with genuine parquet flooring and slate, brick and bamboo walls. In the corner, the TV was on top of a warm brick fireplace and the centrepiece was the splendid four-poster bed. As a fine touch, sprigs of small white flowers were placed on the bed, on cushions and on mats. I had the choice of showering either indoors or outside in a small high-walled garden.
Miss Lam led me on a tour of the premises. This is a â€˜resort hotelâ€™ – a term much abused, I am afraid. I would call it a retreat resort. However, as it has two swimming pools, two restaurants, five bars and a spa area, they can justifiably call it a resort. It has ninety-nine accommodation units, so it is at the large end for a boutique hotel, but the tag is apt, as it offers great personal attention and is not a chain, but family-run, with operational standards equal to, or I would say surpassing, many a famous name in the hotel business.
Leading to the spa area is a path bisecting two pools and flanked by large glazed ceramic jars. There is a large Jacuzzi to froth and loll in and the usual sauna, steam bath and massage and beauty treatments. What makes this special, though, is that there is a large meditation hall, where yoga and the Japanese and Indian spiritual healing systems of Reiki and Chakra are taught and practiced.
I ate a three-course meal at the restaurant near reception. First, true to region, came the Hue specialty â€˜Banh Khoaiâ€™, a deep fried pancake. This was scrumptious, as was the main European course-sauteed chicken breast with green beans and carrot in mushroom sauce. Dessert was poached pear in Dalat wine with ginger and vanilla ice cream. This was all washed down by beer and French wine.
This hotel is a place to refresh both body and mind. It is a teaching and learning hotel. It also comes with an imperial approbation of a place to come to and rest.
Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort and Spa
130 Minh Mang Road, Hue
Tel: (84_54) 3885 461; Fax (84_54) 3887 057
Published rate for Deluxe Room from VND3,381,000 per night.