Australians' love affair with Vietnam is insatiable. Thousands of us flock to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, the northern capital, Hoi An and Nha Trang. Yet here on the country's south central coastline visitors, especially Westerners, are few and its beaches largely empty.
We arrive into a brand-new airport that seems to have wildly over estimated how many tourists to expect given how few disembark from the afternoon flight from Ho Chi Minh City. But that's all expected to change.
From the airport we drive through verdant rice fields in a sleek black BMW on the main highway that runs from Hanoi in the north all the way to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. It's a thoroughfare that would unnerve the most steely of travellers, with tailgating buses and trucks executing suicidal takeovers across double lines. Thankfully our experienced driver is unfazed so we look at the scenery unfolding out the window instead.
With its wide beaches and relics of the old Cham dynasty, the little known Bin Dinh province holds plenty of laid-back charm. But until recently travellers had little reason to journey to its capital, the port town Quy Nhon (pronounced hwee-ngon), with accommodation options limited to simple homestays and guesthouses.
The Anantara Quy Nhon Villas, a new resort, hopes to lure luxury travellers with dedicated butlers, in-villa wine cellar and delicatessen, oversized bathtubs and lap pools. Flanked by mountains and fronting a secluded bay, the intimate coastal retreat is a destination unto itself offering 26 one- and two-bedroom villas (more than half on the beach) with timber sundecks. There is a hilltop spa, indigenous experiences and signature restaurant Sea.Fire.Salt . A salt library has a range of more than 30 locally-infused salts used in the restaurant's cuisine.
South China Sea views beyond our private infinity pool greet us when we check into our beach villa. My 11-year-old daughter makes a beeline for the sand mere steps beyond the contemporary villa built with traditional craftsmanship from locally-sourced materials. There are oversized bathtubs, outdoor showers and an impressive (chargeable) wine fridge stocked with charcuterie, cheese, ice-cream and locally made chocolate.
Guests can opt to craft a conical hat, take a guided tour, do a tai chi class or simply soak up the unfettered vistas across to an uninhabited island. A flotilla of squid-fishing boats and bright blue coracles regularly pass by.
At the swim-up bar premium cocktails, Vietnamese craft beers and Cuban cigars are served in a spectacular ocean-facing setting. While Sea.Fire.Salt features local seafood and regional flavours and is the resort's only restaurant, meals can be served wherever you fancy – perhaps breakfast in bed, grilled lobster poolside or Vietnamese street bites at the bar.
I head for the jungle shrouded spa where visiting practitioner Nont Suksee (a Chiva-Som alumni) takes me through a private yoga class followed by a traditional Vietnamese massage. Trilling cicadas provide a peaceful soundtrack.
Another day Mr Phuc, Quy Nhon's Master of Viet Vo Dao (and the resort's security guard) leads us through a martial arts class on the beach. We chop and kick the air Karate Kid style, twirl and drop to our knees, working up a sweat with sand flying in every direction.
On our final morning, a traditional Vietnamese breakfast of steaming pho and bahn mi is delivered to our villa. The sun sparkles on our plunge pool, butterflies flit and the sea glistens. We tuck into fresh mango, sip Vietnamese coffee and ponder how long it will take before the masses discover this little-known part of Vietnam. Go before they do.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Vietnam Airlines and Anantara Quy Nhon Villas.
Anantara Quy Nhon is about one hour's drive from Phu Cat Airport. Vietnam Airlines flies twice a day from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The airline flies daily to Ho Chi Minh City from Sydney (three times weekly to Hanoi) and Melbourne. See vietnamairlines.com
An oceanfront villa starts from $456 a night including breakfast. See anantara.com/en/quy-nhon