Banyan Tree Lang Co
Half way between Hoi An and Hue, Lang Co is like wading into a surreal picture of everything you imagine rural Vietnam to be – farmers with conical hats, serene rice paddies, flocks of ducks and grazing buffalo. The resort itself sits beneath the steep hills of Truong Son Mountain Range on a three-kilometre stretch of sandy beachfront at Lang Co Bay, a holiday spot historically favoured by Vietnamese royalty, in Central Vietnam.
Designed like a Vietnamese village with villas dotted along the beach or facing the hillside, all of the resort's 62 beach, lagoon and hillside villas have their own private pool. The hillside villas offer incredible views over Canh Duong beach; beach villas are steps from the sand. The design integrates clay-tiled pitched roofs and open courtyards inspired by the traditional garden houses of neighbouring Hue. There's also a lagoon pool, yoga pavilion, water sports centre, while the integrated resort offers a Nick Faldo-designed golf course, two spas and five restaurants. The Banyan Tree and sister property, the Angsana Lang Co, are connected by an artificial canal decorated with colourful lanterns, with a barge ferrying guests between the two resorts.
My lagoon villa (131 square metres) feels spacious and sumptuous decked out in silk and marble with my own pool overlooking the lagoon. Although I have neighbours, it's private with high walls and lush foliage allowing for midnight skinny dips. The king-size bed is dressed in 1000-thread-count cotton and there's a huge artwork of lotus flowers. Outside a timber sun deck with two sun loungers by the pool is shaded by an enormous umbrella, while a gorgeous, tropical garden is lit by lantern light. Best of all are the complimentary bikes that guests can use to transport themselves around the sprawling resort.
There's a choice of three outlets – the Water Court for international and Vietnamese cuisine (try the Papaya salad), the signature hilltop Thai restaurant Saffron with modern Thai and opulent oriental decor, and the breezy beachfront Italian eatery Azura which has an open pizza counter. More dining options are available at neighbouring Angsana. I particularly loved the extravagant breakfast spread where staff can whip you a steaming bowl of noodle soup to order. There are also cute mason jars of yoghurt, Bircher muesli, fresh fruit, and decent coffee. The deep-fried banana fritters with salted-honey ice cream at Saffron is wickedly good.
Not far from the resort, three UNESCO World Heritage sites can be found including the ancient trading town of Hoi An, the vast complex of Hue Monuments and My Son Champa ruins, an imperial city dating to the fourth century. The world's largest known cave passage, Hang Son Dong, is also nearby. If visiting Hoi An or Da Nang during daylight hours, be sure your driver takes you via the Hai Van (sea cloud) Pass between Lang Co and Da Nang. The winding route climbs to an elevation of 496 metres and was historically the boundary between Vietnam and the kingdom of Champa. The old highway affords staggering views – the hills tumble down to sweeps of beach on one side, and the town of Da Nang on the other. Little stalls along the way sell fresh coconuts to passers-by.
This gorgeous resort may feel remote and secluded but offers easy access to explore the best of Central Vietnam. The service is attentive, there's daily yoga in a gorgeous pavilion surrounded by lush vegetation, free bikes to get around, great food and a beautiful beach. I'd return in a heart beat.
HIGHLIGHT Doing yoga on my private deck overlooking the lagoon and watching six white ducks arrive for a swim.
LOWLIGHT There's not a lot going on near the resort. Some will lap up the peace and seclusion; others will be on the first free shuttle to Hoi An or Hue.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Banyan Tree, Helen Wong's Tours, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Express.