With a promise to deliver an experience of the old Indochine era in modern and luxurious facilities, Zara Horner discovers The Anam showcases Vietnam at its best.
Nestled in one of the worlds most beautiful bays and set against a backdrop of jungle clad mountains, The Anam is Vietnam’s “first five-star colonial beach resort.”
The bay, Cam Ranh was once famous as the largest American military base in Vietnam, but today is better known as a pristine, high-end alternative to its neighbour Nha Trang.
In 2002 local entrepreneur Pham Van Hien decided there was no better place to realise his vision for a first-class resort where “innovation and originality” are the watchwords for everything from architecture and design to service standard and amenities. The Anam opened last year as “a haven of serenity and service harking back to a bygone era.”
The Anam encourages guests to feel they have travelled back in time with a ‘no shoes, no news, no stress’ philosophy.
“As our lives have become increasingly hectic, the team at The Anam invites travellers to get away from the stress of everyday life and immerse themselves in the resort’s littoral setting to truly ‘get away from it all’,” general manager Herbert Laubichler-Pichler explains.
“When it comes to ‘no shoes’, The Anam boasts a stunning manicured lawn overlooking 300 metres of Long Beach, that feels great to walk on barefoot!”
In addition to the hundreds of metres of absolute beach frontage the resort provides 117 villas which range in size from 50 sqm to 276 sqm. Each is designed to be “light and airy with hardwood finishes from sustainably cultivated forests, and customised encaustic mosaic floor tiles which create an atmosphere of old world elegance,” Laubichler-Pichler says.
The villas are supported by 96 rooms and suites housed in a five-floor hotel building. Every room has access to a garden or balcony and affords guests views of the ocean and surrounding landscape.
If guests prefer they can relax poolside at one of The Anam’s three unusual swimming pools, including an infinity pool, while 27 of the villas have their own private pools.
With a 10-treatment room spa offering a broad spectrum of indulgent treatments, and complementary sunrise yoga overlooking the sea, it’s easy to see how the ‘no stress’ philosophy can also be applied.
“In a nutshell, the design brief was for the resort to resemble a Vietnamese village of the 19th century,” Laubichler-Pichler says. “Artisans from founder, owner and chairman Pham Van Hien’s home province of Nam Dinh in Vietnam’s north created the wooden structures of the resort, workers from Hue created the unique tiles which are replicated from the French colonial era, the natural stones have been brought from the Thanh Hoa and Nghe An provinces and the cottage roofs were built by experts from Binh Thuan province.
“Unlike many resort developments where a design firm is appointed, Hien determined everything,” Laubichler-Pichler continues. “From the style of the architecture to selecting tiles and liaising with local construction companies.”
An industry veteran himself, Laubichler-Pichler was quickly appointed as the resort’s general manager for, as Hien explains it, his “unrivalled track record… incredibly rich and diversified experience… [and] unbridled energy and enthusiasm for showcasing this special part of Vietnam to the world in a whole new way.”
Even the colour palettes are designed to achieve this by being reminiscent of the bygone Indochine era. “Throughout the resort, old world elegance meets Asian aesthetics and prerogatives in a captivating fusion of East and West,” Laubichler-Pichler says. “Local artisans designed floor tiles that reference colonial French floors. Forests cultivated for sustainable harvests supplied the hardwood. Vietnamese artworks hang from the walls and perch on plinths to open doors on the country’s culture.”
This last is supplemented by the novel idea of taking guests into the homes and galleries of talented local artists to provide insider knowledge of the destination.
As well as providing a feast for the eyes, every week mothers of local staff members arrive and cook their favourite Vietnamese specialties for guests. Recently the ‘Restaurant Hopping’ night was introduced whereby guests are encouraged to sample the resort’s three restaurants and two bars in one evening.
As well as these interesting initiatives and its design ethos, The Anam’s location and natural setting – a place which averages more than 300 sunny days per year – and landscaping of outdoor areas are a stand-out, conforming as they do to the natural tropical surroundings that gently slope towards the South China Sea.
“The resort and expanse of manicured lawns is shaded by 3,000 palm trees,” Laubichler-Pichler points out, “and guests continually praise how lush the property looks, so much so some have even said the vegetation looks too well established for a new resort!
“The palm trees are a local variety and were chosen so that they not only survived but thrived in familiar conditions – transported palm trees often wilt and die. Landscaping encompassing the implementation of local palm trees and other tropical plants including pink and white frangipani, hibiscus and bougainvillea, involved meticulous planning very early in the resort development as this ensured the plants’ locations did not require adjustment once construction kicked off.”
The grounds have also been designed to help keep guest traffic to a minimum. “Vast expanses between buildings enhance the feeling of privacy and ‘getting away from it all’,” Laubichler-Pichler explains.
With three restaurants, two bars, a 3-D movie theatre – a first for a hotel in Vietnam – ballroom, conference facilities, gym, yoga room and deck, water sports centre, tennis court, putting green, kids club and three swimming pools, The Anam is a member of Worldhotels’ ‘World Luxury’ programme.