Nha Trang claims bragging rights on the best weather in Vietnam, with plenty of sunshine and no typhoons. It sits on the South China Sea coast 450km — a one-hour flight — north of Ho Chi Minh City and in recent decades has bloomed as the country's premier beach destination. The change has seen it boom from a modest post-war town to a city of half a million people, with a growing forest of highrise seafront hotels. Nha Trang (pronounced Nah Chang) faces a huge bay dotted with 19 islands and, not surprisingly, almost every available hectare of oceanside land is being pegged for resort development all the way to Cam Ranh, 40km south (where the regional airport is located). Five-star resort Amiana on the Bay sits on a tranquil stretch of bay eight km north of Nha Trang town, looking across to its towers. A marina complex is under construction nearby but at this time Amiana's neighbourhood is still low-key.
Amiana on the Bay stretches almost half a kilometre along a reconstructed shoreline and its guest rooms, lobby and dining areas are oriented towards its namesake bay. The long seafront promenade (there is no surf) is purpose-built for strolling, sunset dreaming and private dining. As well as its own sandy beach the resort has three swimming pools: two are freshwater while the largest is a huge seawater lagoon of 2500 sq metres. Plenty of gardens and trees provide a visual counterpoint to the ocean, sand and seawalls. The dining areas, bars and pools are sufficiently separated from the guest rooms so that there is little intrusion of joyous or raucous noise. The facilities include a fitness centre, kids' club (with babysitting), mini-golf course, tennis court and yoga classes. Add to that the unique Vietnamese water activity of rowing a coracle (woven boat) on the bay. The Amiana is both family- and couple-friendly.
There are 155 rooms and villas in six configurations. The Ocean Deluxe rooms are singe-storey and sea-facing with a generous 35 sq metre interior (main room and inside bathroom) plus a further 25 sq metre exterior (covered, outdoor bathroom and front porch). The porch delivers views across the bay to your choice of sunset, serious moonlight or Nha Trang city growing like a junior Surfers Paradise. The room (designated non-smoking) comes with either a king bed or two twin beds while the outdoor bathroom is dominated by an egg-shaped, hand-carved stone bathtub and rain shower. Standard features include desk, free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, flat screen TV with international channels (but not Australia Plus), iPod dock, wooden and granite floors and a ceiling fan that's shaped like a classic wooden aircraft propeller. In all, it's functional and welcoming, without pretences at opulence. Amiana is a member of the international Peakpoints loyalty program.
Bacaro, the main restaurant, overlooks the bay and draws on locally ingredients where possible. The traditional Vietnamese offerings include fresh spring rolls and pho. For a main, try bun cha Ha Noi with noodles — small pork fillets and patties char-grilled and served with dipping sauce. The seafood recommendations are either scallops and shrimp salad, or the pan-seared grouper. Meanwhile, a fair Western menu includes starters such as duo of tuna, with either a crusted sea bass or pan-seared salmon as the main. A romantic alternative to Bocaro is private dining with a butler and chef at your table-for-two on a private jetty over the bay. In the libations department, LB's Bar serves premium wines, whiskies and cocktails while the pool bar has a happy hour-and-a-half from 5pm. The breakfast buffet is extensive but taste-wise quite unexciting, with service that was intermittently attentive. Finally, the chef's Vietnamese food cooking class is lots of fun.
Amiana is 10 minutes from town to which there is a shuttle service four times daily. Excursion options include a recommended morning tour of Nha Trang markets, city shopping tour by "cyclo" trishaw, sunset champagne cruise, fishing or snorkelling trips, bay and island cruises and a daytrip to Dalat city in the highlands. Nha Trang town has plenty of cafes, restaurants and some nightlife. For the latter, plus a huge 360-degree view, try the SkyLight club and bar on the 43rd floor of the Havana Hotel. On the ground, most visitors seeking local history head to the well-preserved, ancient brick pagodas of Pongar Cham Temple overlooking the river mouth, and the Long Son Chinese Buddhist temple.
An excellent place for several days of away-from-it-all relaxation, if not romance. Amiana on the Bay is increasingly popular among Australian couples as a good-value, expert wedding destination.
Amiana on the Bay, Turtle Bay, Phạm Văn Đồng, Nha Trang, Vietnam. Rooms from $290 a night, see amianaresort.com
Amiana's spa offerings include outstanding massage and a unique warm mud bath in what is billed as "Nha Trang's only ocean view VIP mud bath house."
Sporadic service at breakfast restaurant and in some aspects of room housekeeping.
John Borthwick was a guest of Amiana on the Bay and Vietnam Airlines.