The Banyan Tree, near Lang Co in central Vietnam, is an amazing 5* luxury resort. But the moment I really fell in love with it was on our second night when my other half organized a surprise romantic dinner. We walked arm-in-arm at dusk onto the sandy beach and there, at the moon dappled water's edge, was our own private white linen table. The hotel had arranged dinner in a natural alcove beside the rocks and had surrounded us with large bamboo candles and lanterns. Our personal waiter for the evening brought us Champagne and an amazing seafood feast; and then it was just the two of us, the sound of the lapping water, the flicker of candlelight and a gentle warm evening breeze. That dinner perfectly encapsulated the Banyan Tree experience – a beautifully romantic setting, faultless service and amazing attention to detail at every step.
The resort is only two years’ old, so everything is pristine and shiny. Gardens are beautifully tended, with early morning sprinklers whizzing away to keep everything green and lush. A small river neatly divides the resort and is crossed by two paper lantern covered footbridges in traditional style. Everywhere is easily walkable, even so, there are numerous electric buggies ready to drive you around and also lots of courtesy push bikes dotted around to pick up and park.
There are 49 luxurious lagoon and beach villas for two, all built and furnished to the same high specification and fenced for complete privacy. Inside there is a large bedroom area with king-size bed, a desk office space and a luxury bathroom with shower, bath and dual sink / vanity area. Inside it’s full air-con, free Wi-Fi, mini-bar, coffee / tea facilities, flat screen TV and music system.
The front of the villa opens up onto covered timber decking with sofa, dining table and overhead fan. Beyond this, the sun deck has recliners / parasol, and your own private plunge pool. The 17 beach villas have the addition of a Jacuzzi and a sala pavilion with double day bed and a path that leads directly onto the 3km long crescent beach. It gets light and hot (34˚c) early during May, so it was lovely to get up at 6am one morning and walk straight onto the deserted beach for a dip in the East Sea. We strolled along the water's edge, letting the surf wash over our feet and watched sand crabs scurrying into their holes as we approached. Not that you’ll be far from the sea if you choose a lagoon villa. These villas are located around a natural lagoon and several have incredible views beyond towards the nearby jungle-covered Truong Son Mountains.
It was so peaceful, relaxing and luxurious in our villa that we slipped easily into a chilled routine of sunning and pool bobbing, with occasional distractions for afternoon tea and drinks. But we soon discovered that there were other delights beyond our intimate enclave.
In the resort complex there is a Nick Faldo designed 18 hole championship golf course, gym, two tennis courts, spa centre and yoga pavilion. There are activities on the water (windsurfing, snorkelling, water skiing, jet skiing etc.) and on land (mountain bikes and quad bikes). Also a variety of tours to nearby Lang Co, Hoi An, Hue and My Son or a boat tour discovering the Lang Co lagoon.
On our day out, driven by the lovely Tam in the hotel’s 4x4, we visited the Lang Co market, took a trip across water in a Vietnamese junk to a Buddhist temple set high in the mountain and visited the Hai Van Pass featured in the 2008 Top Gear Special. It twists and turns for 21km and, perhaps not surprisingly, was loved by the TG boys. At 500-metres you reach the top, which overlooks Lang Co to the north and Da Nang to the south. At its narrowest point there are three ruined fortifications, Vietnamese, French and US, which act as a reminder of the country's turbulent past.
Back in the resort, the reception and public areas have a luxurious and exotic Asian feel with marble, stone and wood - surrounding lily filled water features. The meditative atmosphere is heightened by the different Banyan Tree oils and incenses that waft through the air. The Thu Quan lounge was our evening destination for cocktails. Sitting on the open balcony above the 20-metre pool, watching the last light fade over the ocean beyond to a chill-out soundtrack was a great way to start the evening.
There are several dining options. The Saffron, with sweeping views of the entire beach, is the signature restaurant serving amazing Thai cuisine. The Watercourt in the main complex offers a mixture of Vietnamese and international dishes. Azura, by the side of the resort pool, is open for lunch and has a menu featuring light Italian classics.
The Watercourt is also the venue for breakfast. It offers all the usual western options – continental, full-English, American and other staples of luxury breakfasts the world over. But if, like my Mr, you’re a bit more adventurous it also has an amazing selection of Vietnamese dishes – all freshly prepared. Sautéed prawn, chili and lemongrass was wonderfully vibrant and the Vietnamese pancakes were crisp packages of fresh vegetable and meat. The variety and quality of Asian fruit that was on display to be peeled cut and delivered to order was remarkable. Mango, Pomelo, Passion Fruit, Rambutan and Langsat to name a few. Best of all, there was always an open bottle of chilled Moet & Chandon on display for a cheeky breakfast sharpener and a taste of the VIP lifestyle.
On our last night, as we sipped cocktails and reflected on our stay we agreed that, if you’re considering a visit to South-East Asia, Banyan Tree Lang Co is the ideal wedding or honeymoon location. We were greatly impressed by the gentle and courteous service and the atmosphere of serene luxury that pervaded the whole resort. The villas were amazing hideaways and the whole hotel complex is exquisitely designed and cared for. Best of all, we returned to London with the lasting memory of our exclusive evening together, dining on a beautiful beach in Vietnam.
Just down the beach from the Banyan Tree is its sister brand, Angsana. This is a family orientated resort hotel but even if you’re honeymooning just-the-two-of-you it’s worth a visit for five reasons. It’s a 10-minute walk, or 5-minute cycle away.
1) You can walk or swim its 330-metre pool that winds its way through and under the hotel complex.
2) When you’ve explored the pool, stay in the water and have a drink in the pool bar.
3) For an evening meal, the Moomba restaurant is great fun. Located next to the pool and pool bar it’s an open-air rooftop diner set to a cool Ibiza party soundtrack that specializes in Southeast Asian seafood with global favorites also on offer.
4) As you’d expect from a family hotel, there are lots of activities. We messed around on the outdoor table tennis and invented a whole new set of beach volleyball rules aimed specifically at those entering the gentler years.
5) You’ll hear them before you see them. The frogs in the ponds around the hotel start their ‘singing’ around dusk – just as the giant (and totally harmless) fruit bats make their entry.
Travelling to Lang Co
We travelled business class from Heathrow as guests of Vietnam Airlines and were really impressed by the service and friendliness of the cabin crew throughout. On the journey out we flew into Hanoi and took an internal flight to Da Nang. On the return leg we came back via Ho Chi Minh.
Vietnam airlines is the only carrier with direct flights to Vietnam from the UK and the great news is that flying to Vietnam is just about to get a lot easier and even more comfortable.
Vietnam has now waived visas for UK passport holders for single-entry stays up to 15 days. That saves about £50 a person, the admin of filling out forms and postal or embassy visit applications.
Better still, Vietnam Airlines will be flying the new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in time for the Autumn – the first airline to fly this model non-stop from Europe to Southeast Asia. There will be a daily service from Heathrow to Vietnam starting in Summer 2016.
Go there: Spend your honeymoon at Angsana Lang Co and Banyan Tree Lang Co in Vietnam with Western & Oriental. Prices start from £1,769 per person based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Room at Angsana Lang Co for four nights and in a Lagoon Pool Villa at Banyan Tree Lang Co for a further four nights. All accommodation is on a bed and breakfast basis and this price also includes return flights with Vietnam Airlines from London Heathrow and private transfers. To book, contact Western & Oriental on 020 3588 6130 or see http://westernoriental.com/holiday/banyan-tree-lang-co-vietnam/ / http://westernoriental.com/holiday/angsana-lang-co-vietnam/