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Vietnam's New Green Getaway


A new resort in central Vietnam is a quicker, more candescent ticket to paradise. JENINNE LEE-ST. JOHN checks in to the The Anam. Photographed by MORGAN OMMER.

Published on Aug 21, 2017

 

"Faster! Go faster" Mr. Thanh, the watersports director, has been hollering in my ear, which really feels like the opposite of good-passenger behavior, and when he jumps off and starts swimming to shore, his exhortations echo in my wake. "Faster! Farrrrrrther!" If he says so. It's been a while since I last drove a Jet Ski, so I'm psyched to practice cutting and swerving at increasingly high speeds through these mini whitecaps on water that is clear to at least a meter. There's the occasional fishing boat bobbing to my east; on the dunes of the mostly empty shoreline to my west are a couple of local hotels and a few beach-shack eateries; and above...? Right above me is a plane heading in the same direction, surprisingly close. It's coming in for a landing and I remember that Cam Ranh Airport lies just 11 kilometers—as the crow flies, car drives or, if you were ambitious, Jet Ski cruises—from where I started.

Watersports
Take to the seas with the resort's Jet Skis, kayaks, surfboards, bravo sailboats or snorkeling gear.

That's the amazing thing about The Anam. The newest entry into Vietnam's ultra-high-end market feels a like a fairy-land fusion of the remote purity of Koh Rong, Cambodia, with the playful, lawn-party luxury of the Florida Keys. But it is a straight 12-minute shot to a little airport in the center of the East Sea coastline and 35 minutes to Nha Trang—a bustling beach city better suited for a diving or drinking daytrip than a relaxing vacation terminus. Sheltered on a long empty shore south of Cu Hin Mountain with the requisite private-pool villas, a palatial Thémaé-product spa (plus two spa-centric guest villas with their own treatment rooms), a 3-D movie theater, three photogenic pools, and the best private-dining set-up I've ever experienced, The Anam has all of the elements of exclusive-resort style, none of the far-flung-hideaway inconvenience.

Thanks to the spare-no-expenses dedication to landscaping of founder Pham Van Hien, it looks like no other property in the country. Two long, Kelly green fairways run from the main pool down towards the shore where they join at a central lawn dotted with towering palms (3,000 were responsibly transplanted from a nearby grove). Volleyball nets and a couple of soaring kites overlook a sweep of sand the color of unbrushed silk and the bright azure ocean beyond. Stepping out of your villa—each has a garden-wrapped sunken tub and a bed of lush Irish linens in a cocoon of French-Vietnamese overlap best exemplified by the floor tiles made by local artisans to evoke colonial-era grace—onto the soft golf grass each morning, you'll rub your eyes and wonder if you're standing in an oversaturated photograph. Or perhaps forgot to take off those 3-D glasses.

Lagoon Pool
The villa-lined Lagoon Pool.

Yes, the place is social media gold, but it's also got warm, small-town service. Just ask the team of spider-men who set up the private-dining experience for us, tight-roping on the gazebo to ensure the drapes billowed just so, carefully arranging the candles into a romantic ring of fire. It was logically tucked into a copse of trees on the front lawn, about 15 meters from the chef and his grill, to perfectly balance privacy and proximity. This means you get close to the sounds of the surf, without uncomfortably sandy feet to distract from the wine-paired meat and seafood extravaganza served by the attentive but decidedly nonintrusive waiter.

The hotel also has a community-focused mission championed heartily by general manager Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, who wanted to do more than just decorate his guest rooms with local originals. And so, a mixed-media art tour was recently launched by The Anam in conjunction with the Vietnamese Art Association of Khanh Hoa Province, a place that photographer Mai Loc—who worked his way up from being an impoverished cyclo driver to an internationally recognized professional who has showed with the likes of James Nachtwey—tells me "is good inspiration for artists, not so good for art business." The circuit varies by the day to share the spotlight among a diverse batch of creatives; an afternoon drive through Nha Trang takes us to meet him, a sculptor, and painters of varied styles and renown.

A guest room cocoon
A guest room cocoon.

At the home gallery that demure Bao Tran runs to display the work of various painters including herself and her husband, Luu Thanh Qua, we're saying our see-you-laters when Luu pulls out a sketchpad and charcoal pencils and shyly asks if, actually, I have five more minutes to spare. A lieutenant in the military, he mostly oil paints traditional bucolic scenes… although, watching him make effusive squiggles on the page, I suspect it is my nontraditional curly hair that was today's inspiration.

I'm delighted to accept his drawing of me, and even more so that a couple of hours later we will meet again. We reconvene with all of the artists for an aperitif at Laubichler-Pichler's home, drinks on the beach at the Nha Trang expat institution Sailing Club (also The Anam's partner for diving and island-hopping excursions) and then a big fresh-seafood feast. On a balcony overlooking the two twinkling spans over the city's estuary, picking out snails and sucking down enormous steamer clams, a few rounds of 333 beer facilitates our group chat, a mash-up of their stilted English and my elementary Vietnamese. What a perfect setting it is to bridge the hotel community with this local fellowship, who themselves embody life in Technicolor.

The Anam's Saigon Bar
The Anam's Saigon bar.

 


theanam.com; doubles from US$215.

 

 

 

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The chill life in The Anam's main pool.
  • A traditional basket boat for fishing excursions.
  • The private-dining gazebo.
  • Lunch at the Beach Club.
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