28 September 2016

 
Luxury blends with age-old customs in Hoi An
Vietnam's new world of luxury
Arthur Martin and Hannah Roberts investigate the pace of change on the country's central coastline...
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he pace of change along central Vietnam’s coastline is dizzying. As we drive along the beach road between the Unesco World Heritage sites of Hoi An and Hué, rows of luxury holiday resorts are being built overlooking white beaches. ‘Five years ago there was nothing here – this road wasn’t even built,’ our guide Trong tells us. ‘Local fisherman used to live in huts along here. Now it's turning into Vietnam’s new playground.’ There are manicured golf courses designed by Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie – but it's just a five-minute cycle ride from traditional villages where the main occupation remains rice growing.

Among the new resorts is a Banyan Tree – which, along with its sister hotel Angsana next door, is situated beneath the Truong Son mountain range. This is currently the only resort on a crescent-shaped bay near Lang Co, a remote area of fishing villages and jungle. As we approach the resort, we see emerald-green paddy fields spreading for miles, flecked by conical bamboo hats shielding farmers from the sun.
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The luxurious Banyan Tree Hoi An
The River View Suite at the Anantara
Our plans bemuse hotel staff. Guests tend to use bikes to get around the resort, rather than for longer excursions. We soon realise why. Those imposing granite mountains prove a challenge for our one-gear bikes. But eventually we find ourselves cycling through quaint hamlets where homes have small grocery shops spilling out of their front drives. Some front rooms and gardens have been converted into noodle stalls, with plastic chairs and tables. Children run – or in some cases cycle – after us with big grins on their faces. We come upon two floating restaurants on a nearby lake.

We have seafood and noodles, for 50p a head. The resort is located at the axis of three Unesco World Heritage sites in Vietnam's ‘cultural triangle’ – the imperial city of Hué; the ruined Hindu temples of My Son; the former merchant town of Hoi An. We fall in love with Hoi An within minutes. Its riverside setting and centuries-old houses give it a rich feel of history, colourful lanterns hanging along every street. And beyond, the soft sands and ice cold drinks of Cua Dai beach – a 30-minute cycle ride from the hotel – prove just as picturesque.

Original article published in Feb 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
The resort's pagoda-style roofs are modelled on the traditional houses of the old imperial city of Hué. There are plenty of non-beach related activities. We opt to take the hotel bikes to the centre of Lang Co, 13 miles away.
"We fall in love with Hoi An within minutes. Its riverside setting give it a rich feel of history."
 
 
 
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