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Anantara: A Calm Retreat
August 29, 2017
Sitting the banks of the Thu Bon River amongst lush tropical gardens, the Anantara Hoi An looks more like an elegant private villa than a hotel. It’s Hoi An’s most distinguished and best-located luxury hotel, just a few minutes walk from the scenic Old Town, which is hung with colourful lanterns and lined with tailor shops where you can order a measure-made linen suit to be delivered to your room in less than twenty-four hours. Once a major port with beautiful, grand architecture, the town is now heavily sated with tourists, particularly at night when visitors eagerly purchase candles to float down the river and drift in and out of the riverside bars, but the hotel is a calm retreat on the fringes of the chaos.
We arrive in the mid afternoon when the sun is low and the shadows are long and soft against the pastel pink walls. Tall palm trees and exotic plants fill all the empty spaces, cascading down the sides of the balconies and bursting through light wells. At night, the trees at the entrance are illuminated by white lanterns and the air is filled with the bubbling and croaking of frogs around the pond. The atmosphere is laid back and serene, much like the staff who drift round the hotel’s grounds in traditional rice paddy hats and red silk tunics.
Our room is a Premium River View Suite located on the first floor. It’s simply and tastefully furnished in neutral colours with local artworks hung on the walls, a lounge area and large en-suite bathroom with a sunken bathtub and Elemis bath products. The windows are surprisingly small given the stunning view, but since the sun is almost always guaranteed to be shining apart from in peak rainy season, there’s no need to be cocooned inside during the daytime. Plus, the balcony is spacious enough for two daybeds where you can doze in the shade with a book from the hotel’s library and watch the boats gliding gracefully along the waterway.
The swimming pool is the most relaxing place to be in the midday sun, though when the hotel is full it does get a little crowded so it’s best to forget your dignity and dash down with your towel straight after breakfast. Shallow enough to stand the whole way across and warm like a bath, it’s more for soaking or socializing than for laps. There’s a bar nearby too where you can order poolside drinks and snacks. It’s worth noting that there’s currently some building work going on next door with intervals of heavy drilling so it’s less peaceful than it would normally be, but if you plug your headphones in, it’s barely noticeable.
There’s also a compact little gym near to the pool with a few machines, weights and yoga mats. It’s not state-of-the-art, but it does the job. The spa is similarly intimate with four single treatment rooms and a couple’s room, each with a private bath or you can book a manicure in a garden cabana overlooking the river. If you’re looking for a more cultural activity, you can hop on board the hotel’s river cruise and although there’s not a huge amount to see on the river banks, it’s an enjoyable experience nonetheless with an unlimited supply of fresh lychees to munch on as you float along.
The Anantara really excels when it comes to food. Breakfast is served in the upstairs restaurant, Lanterns: an indulgent buffet of local specialties and western favourites as well as a board of daily specials. The Vietnamese cold coffee here is one of the best brews I’ve tasted and when it’s on the menu, the brioche-baked egg is the top choice. The Riverside Cafe is open for all-day dining and makes a great lunch spot with fresh Vietnamese salads, spring rolls, noodles and delicious blended ice-teas.
For dinner, we are given the opportunity to test out a new in-room dining “street food” concept that’s launching soon for all guests. A low table and small plastic chairs (as is the Vietnamese street food tradition) is set up on our balcony with a hob of boiling stock and platters of noodles, vegetables and seafood for the hotpot. Our personal waitress for the evening pours us a glass of sparkling wine whilst the ingredients simmer for a few minutes and then she carefully serves us a bowl each. It’s superb: light and flavour some, tasting of lemongrass and rich spices; the prawns, calamari and fish are perfectly cooked. Whilst you could find a similar, more authentic set up on the street side, dining on your own balcony is always a more relaxing experience and the hotpot far excels any we’ve previously tasted.
Elegant and serene, The Anantara is the perfect base from which to explore Hoi An and the surrounding coastline. When the bright lights and buzz of the town become tiring, the hotel is calm, and inviting with excellent food and plenty of peaceful spaces to unwind.
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