STAY ON THE VIETNAMESE RIVIERA
(Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Vietnam)
By Gilles Malaisé
Our third trip to Mui Ne in one year, confirmed that this splendid and sunny region is definitely one of the best seaside destinations in Vietnam. What locals call “Saigon’s Beach” (Ho Chi Minh City is located 4-hour drive only), boosts the most surprising landscape in all Southeast Asia. It even features a Sahara-like desert, with white and red sand dunes. Home to the nicest beaches in Indochina, beating Thaïland, and even Sihanoukville (Cambodia), it has astonishingly affordable luxury hotels.
We wished to do it more “local”, and visited one of those warmly welcoming resorts, attracting Vietnamese and expatriate families more than tourists. The Blue Ocean Resort is tailored made to those looking for luxury without bling, relaxation without boredom, and a real sense of Vietnamese hospitality mixed with a super efficient Western management. Kristy, the charming and energetic general manager, keeps the ship in still waters, assuring to her guests a faultless, most enjoyable stay.
Located on the main road with plenty of shops and restaurants all around, the Blue Ocean Resort is an oasis of serenity, beauty and security. Extremely well maintained, is occupies a large piece of land, with a magnificent beach. The structure of the property principally consists in bungalows, nestled in lushly gardens. Coconut trees, frangipanis and a multitude of tropical essences surround well designed residential structures, respecting the Eco-system while pleasing the eye. This resort caters perfectly families, but also couples on a honeymoon. The concept is such, that you won't get disturbed by your neighbor. Even at poolside: those visiting the resort with kids are usually Vietnamese, avoiding outdoor activities until sunset. Which means that Westerners, actively looking for farniente, can relax and sun tan at ease. The pool is large, elegantly shaped. Snacks and drinks are fairly priced. Really accommodating for those escaping the ritzy atmosphere and rates of international five-star hotels, the time of a cool week-end.
We occupied a lovely Seaview Bungalow, which you can get over Internet booking at less than USD 190. Spacious (57 sq.m), with a ravishing bathroom featuring a large stone tub / shower in an open-air patio, it offers exactly the level of comfort that a weekender is looking for. Plus attractive options for a longer term stay: the writing desk, for instance, makes it possible to escape from the office a few days, working in the quietness of the resort. We did so, and this was most inspiring. Rattan and tropical wood furniture are discreet, yet stylish. The king-size bed is absolutely comfy. An active brigade of house-keepers actively made our room cleaner than a Swiss clinic.
We also liked the veranda (called “sun-lounge”) very much: ideal to read a good novel, lulled by the breezy air of the ocean located only a few meters away, sweeping from one of the most lovely beaches in the region. Those pretending that Mui Ne doesn't illustrate itself by the cleanness of its sand certainly visited poorly maintained hotels or public beaches. All the resorts which we enjoyed, until now, offered immaculate beaches: starting with the Blue Ocean Resort, favoring the protection of the bio-system: with a treatment of the used-water, and staff affected to the perfect maintenance of the beach. Ideal for swimming in a perfect safety (just beware of jelly fish during the rainy season), perfect for kite surfing (lessons are available from the hotel), fantastic for relaxing, jogging or taking picture of the fishermen invading the shores at sunset, we can confirm from our personal experience that the Blue Ocean Resort offers to its guests one of those beaches making the high reputation of Mui Ne in South East Asia.
Very affordable massages are available in the SPA and fitness or, even better, under the stylish beachside “Sala”. Well designed for couples, it offers head and shoulders / Indian head massages, and reflexology at less than 15 USD.
Breakfast, included in the room rate, provides plenty of tropical fruits, Vietnamese and international dishes. It is served in the pleasant and informal Senses Restaurant, offering an attractive choice of specialties from South Vietnam. The bartender is as friendly as professional. His specialty is the surprising and quite unique"Dragonfruit Mojito". Excellent local seafood restaurants are available near the hotel, where a gourmet dinner al fresco costs a maximum of 30 USD ordering lobster!
If the beach, spa and pool are not enough for you, and we hope so as there is a lot to see in the region, lend a bike to explore Ham Tien Ward, a jeep to navigate the sand dunes, or go by bus (stopping in front of the resort), or taxi, to Phan Thiet: enjoying the colorful and gourmand atmosphere of the local markets. We would warmly recommend a day trip to Da Lat, located 150 kilometers away, in cool mountains, where the colonial atmosphere is emphasized by an astonishing European climate (temperature varies between 15 and 25 degrees, which is quite unique in South Vietnam). Everything can be done from Mui Ne and the Blue Ocean Resort, one of its best established hotels.
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