It was the middle of the afternoon and I was floating several metres beneath the surface of Vietnam’s East Sea when the deluge began. From an otherwise pellucid blue sky a single dark rain cloud had arrived over my position and began to drench the surface of the ocean and the white sand of the curving beach nearby.
It was almost as if I had ordered the cloud for my own amusement, should I need to be kept cool once I emerged from the fish filled depths of a coral reef to blow seaweed from my snorkel. Despite being open for just a month the level of service at Amanoi is already so high that I would not be surprised if they had a cloud menu with a light cumulus as the main course with a few cirrus thrown in as dessert.
We had arrived the day before after a flight from Hong Kong to Nha Tranh via Ho Chi Minh City. At the airport Aman staff whisked us to a four wheel drive vehicle that proved useful for the drive ahead, which including an hour on unmade roads before we entered the Nui Chua National Park, which has a fairy tale feel, as if Alice in Wonderland had been set among wooded hillsides and islands that are shaped like doughnut nuggets.
The arrival at an Aman is always special, making guests feel like they are monarchs from a distant empire arriving at a far-flung outpost run by diplomats with decades of experience. The scented cloths, exotic cordials and gentle guide through the public rooms always leaves me feeling like I have been channeled into Prince Charles’s body for a few minutes as he tours a palace on the Pitcairn Islands.
Happily, my regal out of body experience is replaced by another form of transcendence when we get to our villa, where my consciousness became more excitable than a pin ball machine, my eyes flying from the gorgeous sitting area to bounce off the Jacuzzi tub with its view over a perfect crescent bay and finally to land on the private pool outside where a full moon was just beginning to rise. The private pools at Aman resorts are one of my favorite aspects of the company’s offering.
They are always designed with a clever aesthetic and at Amanoi ours slips sensuously toward the horizon and looks like a magic carpet that could be ridden over the green hills and straight into the sea. It’s key to the Aman relaxation factor that one can roll out of bed and into the calming waters without a single thought in one’s mind or stitch of clothing on one’s skin. Sometimes a workingman needs his brain and body to be wet and naked and there is no better place for that than an Aman.
They offer an excellent breakfast too (clothes required) and the only problem is choice. Once can opt for the main pavilion where there is an air conditioned main salon for those who can no longer exist without being refrigerated plus a terrace that overlooks the rugged coastline and string of bays that run to the north.
The view from here is memorable, as definitive for breakfast views as a Damien Hirst piece is for modern art, but like some of Hirstie’s work this is a bit distant, on a scale that’s monumental but not clumsy and human. For a more immersive experience there is the Beach Club, where bacon, egg and home made croissants come with a fresh sea breeze, a slight tang of salt in the air and the prospect of a dip in the gentle waves once the marmalade and brioche have been digested.
The beach became our second home during four nights at the resort, offering an infinite variety of entertainment. It served as a safe harbour for our small armada of kayaks (if 2 can be an armada and not an armadette) as we set sail for the fishing village on the far shore, where freshness is measured in seconds. It also made a romantic venue for a post-dinner stroll, a launching pad for hobie cats and the perfect place for afternoon tea served in porcelain with slivers of lemon… More stories like this are available in Quintessentially Asia.