It took me approximately one full minute to fall in love with Amanoi.
Stepping off a short, direct flight from Hong Kong, and after a subsequent 75-minute-long drive along a winding coastal highway, our contingent had been well-primed by the passing verdant scenery, ready to be awed upon arrival by the five-star resort’s vaulted entrance staircase and the staff in their breezy bleached Vietnamese tunics. However, it wasn’t until a beaming attendant handed me a welcome drink – a fragrant, ice-cold ginger beer made in-house – that my mind was truly made.
Indeed, it would take a hardened soul to resist the charms of Amanoi. Deriving its name from the Sanskrit word for “peace” and the Vietnamese word for “place”, the resort’s location – between the 29,000-hectare Núi Chúa National Park and a pristine marine reserve on Vietnam’s south-central coastline – all but guarantees tranquillity.
Contrary to the popular perception of Vietnam as a sweltering tropical country, the national park’s unique microclimate delivers dry, balmy Mediterranean weather and a generous 250 days of sunshine per year.
Designed to make the most of the abundant sun, Amanoi’s 16 villas and 12 free-standing pavilions were conceived by renowned luxury hotel architect Jean-Michel Gathy to be minimalist, highly symmetrical and open to the surrounding nature, all the while paying homage to traditional Vietnamese architecture with their gracefully sloping eaves.
Peeking out from the ridgeline, their blue-grey roofs resemble monastic hideouts clustered around the grand Central Pavilion, which contains the main restaurant, library and lounge bar.
Given Amanoi’s emphasis on health and wellness, the 20,000sqft Aman Spa is a sight unto itself. It sits on the shore of a lotus lake, from where a yoga pavilion juts out into its centre and plays host to morning fitness classes – a meditation session here, while listening to nothing save for birdsong, does wonders for the soul.
The complex offers an array of half- or full-day treatments to shape you into your best self, including such arcane-sounding options as pranayama breathing, reiki and craniosacral therapy.
I love getting the chance to welcome clients – it allows me to reintroduce this destination to myself, to see it through fresh eyes.
Nicolas Pillet, general manager of Amanoi
Health pilgrims looking for nothing short of physical and mental rebirth should consider Amanoi’s Wellness Immersions. Supplicants must first undergo a pre-trip consultation with the spa director, who then tailors an all-encompassing programme of dietary, exercise, relaxation and spa treatments based on holistic Asian medicinal practices.
The programme is carried out in one of two specialised 1,850sqft Spa Houses: the Thuy Lien Spa House features a marble-clad hammam, while the An Son Spa House boasts a Russian-style banya sauna. This writer can attest to the effectiveness of the latter, where benign spa attendants will alternately subject the body to steamy lashings with imported sheafs of oak leaves and icy plunges into a cold-water pool that induce minor cardiac arrest. The result? Pure bliss.
The service at Amanoi must be given special commendation. Ever-attentive and never caught without smiles on their faces, the attendants lightly flit to and fro in their conical nón lá hats, always ready to offer a lemongrass-scented wet towel or a banh căn rice pancake for afternoon tea. Especially endearing is the turndown service, where the customary gift left on the bed covers progressively grows in size for each consecutive night.
The staff more than go out of their way to create memorable experiences for guests, from a blessing ceremony conducted under the moonlight by a shaman of the Cham ethnic minority, to a candlelit white-tablecloth dinner in the redolent home of a local village chieftain.
For the more adventurous, the resort also offers sunrise hikes to the nearby Goga Peak, while a range of water sports – including Hobie Cat sailing and windsurfing – can be enjoyed at the picture-perfect Beach Club.
It’s easy to become envious of the staff in any luxury resort, who take for granted what paying guests travel far and wide to experience, if only for a few days. As general manager Nicolas Pillet explains over lunch at the Beach Club while surveying the coruscating Vinh Hy Bay: “That’s why I love getting the chance to welcome clients – it allows me to reintroduce this destination to myself, to see it through fresh eyes.”
That’s one welcome we’re dreaming of receiving again.
Each villa's private clubhouse comes with its own infinity pool.
Private dinners can be organised by the poolside.
One of two Spa Houses.
One part of the Vietnamese massage.
The Beach Club.
The Cliff Pool makes for one of Amanoi's most breathtaking vistas.
A cultural excursion to the Po Klong Garai Temple of the Cham ethnic people.
A Cham shaman conducts a blessing ceremony by candlelight.
Preparing banh căn rice pancakes for afternoon tea.
The interior of the main restaurant.
This story was originally published in our September 2018 issue as ‘A Place Beyond.’ Grab a copy of our September issue, on newsstands now.
Photography courtesy of Amanoi