Vietnam’s long journey from a curiosity to a viable,
upscale destination passed another critical milestone recently when the
Princess d’Annam Resort & Spa opened on this pristine stretch of the
South China Sea 150 kilometers from Saigon.
Named for a 13th Century
Vietnamese princess, the Princess d’Annam opens with 57 units on a
secluded bay 35 kilometers south of the provincial capital of Phan Thiet.
The property’s beach takes in a private bay that’s
defined by an 1899-built colonial French lighthouse to the north and a
massive ridge of sand that curls out to sea to the south.
However naturally impressive the surroundings, the resort is a
landmark tropical design, crafted by noted Singaporean architect Tan
Hock Beng. The resort is a testament to the architect’s craft of
critical regionalism whereby ‘place’ matters.
all-villa resort trades in three classes of accommodation, from the
75-square-meter Mandarin villa to the 100-square-meter Princess and the
185-square-meter, two-story Empress.
The resort’s design appeal is
founded in Tan Hock Beng’s interpretation of a colonial French villa
design with strong Chinese overtones. With steeply pitched roofs that
seem to hover above the villas, rubbled walls and ornate lattice work,
the architecture marries the traditional to the contemporary and modern
simplicity to imperial elegance.
Inside, Vincent Koh’s understated contemporary Vietnamese
tropical design enhances the light-filled, airy ambiance. Private plunge
pools distinguish each of the Princess villas, and a private lap pool
spans the private compounds of each of the four Empress villas.
All of the villas bring the outdoors
in with bathrooms that
feature rain showers and baths and sunken tubs. The in-room amenities
run from high-tech (plasma-screen televisions and high-speed wireless
environments) to high-touch (24-hour room service).
The spa is
an 1,800-square-meter monument of design, reminiscent of a Moroccan
sanctuary. The pre-eminence of the spa is underscored by its situation
on the property itself. While some resorts bury their spas in an
out-of-the-way locations, Princess d’Annam positioned its spa on the sea.
“It’s the best seat in the house,”
said Jean-Philippe Beghin, the resort’s general manager. “Usually,
the visual experience of any spa treatment is negligible. Here it’s
Likewise, the resort’s gardens. Designed
by Alan Carle, who also designed the ginger gardens in Singapore’s
Botanical Gardens, the grounds teem with more than 200 varieties of
flowers, shrubs and trees. In the heart of the resort is a ginger
garden, a subtle echo of Carle’s renowned design further south.
In addition to the private pools
featured in the Princess and Empress villas, four common
pools enhance the resort’s oasis-like appeal.
Dining from the Princess d’Annam’s ever-changing menu involves four
primary venues — the Dining Room, the Terrace, the Lounge or the Villa —
and two families of cuisine — a Vietnamese menu and a European menu
founded in France and Italy. The menu changes daily.
Excursions from the Princess d’Annam range from the stately lighthouse
just offshore to the eminence of Ta Cu, a nearby mountain where a
2-kilometer cable car system whisks visitors to a pagoda at top and a
49-meter long recumbent Buddha, one of the longest in Southeast
Further afield lie the Ocean Dunes Golf Club, an
award-winning 18-hole tracked designed by Nick Faldo, as well as the red
and white sand dunes of Mui Ne and Po Shanu, an ancient Cham tower
Rack rates at the resort begin at
US$465 per night, and climb into four figures for a
major class of accommodation.
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