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Some people keep going back to the same places year after year and these days, I’ve become one of those people. Sometimes, it is just so nice to stay in a beautiful place and do nothing but lay in the sun reading, swimming, mediating, getting massages and drink cocktails by the pool side. Pure indulgence.
Every year or so, I arrive to Mui Ne, a town near Phan Thiet in Southern Vietnam, slightly surprised that I am still alive after a 5 hours ride of death on a singing, mosquito ridden, shy of seatbelts private bus, the ones that only seat 12 but carry 25, (Vietnamese people are tiny after all).
I go the Romana Resort & Spa, its one that is fartheset away from all the budding resorts that have sprung in between the sand and the palm trees of this once desolate place. There was absolutely just palm trees and sand the first time I passed in 2000.
It stands alone in between the mountains and the sea along a small cove. Here is where you come to be alone and find peace and quiet. The resort is stunning with lovely gardens maintained to perfect tweezer conditions daily by gardeners. There’s a tennis court, a panoramic swimming pool, lots of ponds with lotus blooming, a gorgeous bar and restaurant.
You can either stay in rooms or villas from $75 per night for a double room or from $135 for a villa with your own pool, a beautiful outside inside bathroom. The price includes breakfast for 2, which is a huge buffet of Vietnamese delights as well as a continental selection. You can actually fill yourself up for the entire day on fruits, made on the premises bakeries, noodle soups and all sorts of dumplings to guava juice, overlooking a fantastic view of the sea.
In the mornings, you can fly kites down at the solitary beach where its just you and the wind; then sunbathe all day with a fantastic book. I have read some wonderful fiction such as The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle and The History Of Love on these sun lounges, occasionally dipping into the pool, floating towards the sky, watching yellow butterflies batter by in hundreds and thousands or dragonflies like spitfires on V-Day.
The sun starts to set at 4:30pm which is depressing but we are at the equator after all. Before dinner, you can take a 3 hour – “me-time” at the spa. For $90, you can get a full body massage, from Swedish to Vietnamese – you chose, a facial, a body scrub and a trip to the sauna. I have never felt so clean, rejuvenated and renewed after one of these. You can also get a manicure and pedicure and a hair-cut too if you fancy the full pampering works. I spread them out with the length of my stay. The staff are friendly and amazing!
If you chose to have dinner here, sometimes they have a dinner buffet or a BBQ at the pool. I haven’t been but it sounds amazing! I met up with the chef, Trung, who really makes good pizzas. That’s right, I order pizzas here because they are so nice with a bottle of Saigon beer! He learns many continental recipes and experiments in the kitchen constantly, making croissants from scratch. Boy, I wish I can give to him the ready made puff pastry.
Drinks are rather expensive, they are London prices if you want wine and cocktails (as its imported) but who can resist.
I often ride out to civilization in the evenings to Mui Ne or Phan Thiet, eating street food and hanging with anyone I can. At night, girls who were covered up against the sun, in socks, gloves, big hats and masks are in hot pants and skimpy tops.
You are only beautiful when you are pale and white. If you are tanned, you are seen as poor and ugly. They don’t understand foreigners coming and baking til they are lobster red in the full monstrosity of the evil sun. The waiter (pictured above) says to me, ‘everyone who arrives looks so nice and healthy, but when they leave, they are all red and burnt and they think its nice! Its so wrong!!”
The Vietnamese are not too fond of quiet time. They like a lot of sound. This place is very quiet and often you hear the locals talk about this place being haunted. If you experience seeing ghosts during your stay, do let me know!
More stories of my trip to Vietnam and foodie finds coming soon…