The pavilions at Amanoi were designed without interior walls to create more open space. // © 2014 Jimmy Im
Sprawling on 100 acres, Amanoi, Aman Resorts’ newest property in Vinh Hy Bay, Vietnam, is nested within the Nui Chua National Park, one of Vietnam’s largest natural conservation sites that protects nearly 72,000 acres of pristine coastal and marine habitats. From Cam Ranh Airport, it’s a 90-minute drive north through small villages and countryside, and some rough roads en route signaled that I was headed to an off-the-radar location — not surprising considering that Aman properties tend to be located outside of tourist hubs. When I arrived, I was immediately whisked away to the Central Pavilion, which includes the main lodge and restaurant and an outdoor terrace with breathtaking views of the sea.
“Amanoi is basically designed as a Buddhist temple,” said interior designer David Schoonbroodt, who works with the resort’s architect Jean-Michel Gathy.
Like a temple, Amanoi is minimalist and effortlessly meditative. Vietnamese artwork and antiques warm up public spaces, including the library, which displays framed, centuries-old pieces.
Every space on the property — from the pavilions to the pools to the lobby — demonstrates geometric precision, with shapes that are clean, sleek and ultramodern.
There are 31 guest pavilions and five villas at Amanoi, set deep within the forest. The pavilions — all of which are strategically placed to ensure privacy and space — start at 312 square feet and are equipped with king beds, a living area, a swivel flat-screen television, ample closet space and spa-like bathrooms that feature stand-alone tubs, a separate rain shower, dual vanities and, depending on your room, a view of the sea, forest, mountains or lake via floor-to-ceiling windows. There are no interior walls, making the room one large open space. About half of the pavilions include their own private pool. I stayed in pavilion 18, which features 360-degree views of the bay, the beach and the mountainside.
At the Central Pavilion, I had lunch by the outdoor, saltwater infinity pool. It’s a sublime spot during the day, set against millions-year-old boulders with a backdrop of the rocky coastline. When it came to poolside lazing, however, I preferred the Beach Club. The outdoor sanctuary is romantic and elegant, visually commanding and destined to spoil guests. Next to the casual, high-ceiling restaurant that serves brunch and dinner is a 130-foot infinity pool, with a secluded white-sand beach and an emerald bay in the background. Nothing was more refreshing than a quick plunge in the calm sea before relaxing under the hot Vietnamese sun. Guests can also opt to take out a kayak or Hobie Cat for non-motorized watersports and even snorkel at a nearby coral reef.
The 20,000-square-foot spa is a retreat within a retreat. As soon as guests enter the lobby, they are greeted with a staggering view of a tranquil lake anchored by a yoga pavilion and lush foliage. The spa features five double treatment rooms within their own units, a sauna and steam room and a terrific boutique spa menu.
While relaxation is the top priority, Amanoi also has a well-equipped fitness center and a separate Pilates studio with Reformer machines. Complimentary yoga classes are also offered. I experienced “Holistic Fusion,” a class designed to stabilize, strengthen and tone the body and improve posture by incorporating elements of martial arts, Pilates, yoga and conditioning. The class is the creation of Aaron Parsley from the U.K., who spearheads the fitness program. In addition to Holistic Fusion at the yoga pavilion, my well-rounded fitness experience also included a personal training session and a Pilates class with Parsley.
Aside from all of the comforts and amenities provided by Amanoi, the property’s welcoming atmosphere was the critical factor in making my stay unforgettable. The resort employs 30 front-of-house staff members, most of whom are locals from nearby villages who provide memorable hospitality, as if you were visiting their private home.
“What truly stands out at Amanoi is that it doesn’t feel like a hotel or resort but a home,” said resident manager Mr. Boggy (as he prefers to be called), who’s been with the company for 21 years. “Guests are never presented with a bill at dinner, and they are treated like family or friends rather than tourists.”