(No.10, Vol.3, Nov 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)
All along the 220 km from the celebrated resort village of Mui Ne to the no-less-popular seaside retreat of Nha Trang city, the highway races neck and neck with the coastline and vast spaces of the sea under the spotless sky, all together forming a five-hour continuum of bright deep blue and bursting yellow for one to behold. At sunset, the bus rolls out on the part of the road cut out through the rocks and perched high above the sea. Itâ€™s where the magnificent panorama of an overwhelmingly huge bay rises to oneâ€™s view in all its splendor. The colossal, still body of the sea at ebbâ€“tide lying far below makes one feel like nothing less than riding along the very rim of a solid universe. After 10 minutesâ€™ ride from the mesmerizing tropical sea abyss, I arrive in the sumptuous lobby of Diamond Bay Resort & Spa, its vast interior expanses pillared with columns, dÃ©cor and furnishing reminding one of Heathrowâ€™s VIP Lounge, with fine blooms of colonial chic sophisticatedly added by cozy rattan cushions, ripe cherry-coloured bamboo shutters instead of traditional floor-to-ceiling glass windows and cheerful green rice sprouts in pots on the coffee-tables. A shopping arcade and big travel bureau stand were also there to strengthen the chic terminal association. Check-in took no more than five minutes. With a â€˜boarding passâ€™ comprising of the room key card and a whole bunch of full board meal vouchers in one hand and a map of Diamond Bay Resort handed to me by the ever-so-amiable guest relations manager in the other, I proceed by electrical car through the mighty tropical ocean of resort gardens to the junior suite where Iâ€™m booked. The cheery liveried driver motors me along broad alleys that actually look more like real streets of some seaside town framed with long rows of palm trees with families of guests strolling under the noble-looking street lights.
The resort area is truly expansive, with exquisite four-star accommodations, featuring 176 rooms, ranging from Garden Superior and Deluxe to Junior and Executive suites in four three-story hotel blocks and 164(!!!) bungalows comprising Ocean View and VIP Diamond Jacuzzi bungalows â€¦ all of them nestled in the lush gardens, with half of these last overlooking the sea. To ensure the utter comfort and to provide memorable pleasures of the guestsâ€™ pastime at such an impressive institution are three elegant restaurants, four bars, a night club and cinema, a state-of-the art seaside 18 hole golf course with stylish golf clubhouse attached and all of this is just for starters. There are many more exquisite facilities that are asking to be immediately depicted.
On arrival to my suite on the first floor, I was really impressed by the elegant spacious living room furnished in mild rococo style, cozy bedroom and two large balconiesâ€“verandahs overlooking the palm garden with all amenities you would expect of a luxury hotel (plus the faint but oh-so-familiar and nostalgia-provoking odor of Russian salami from the minibar â€“ an obvious trace of provident compatriots staying there before me).
The Universe Restaurant, which I managed to find in the forest of a garden exclusively by means of resort map, was also very impressive, with its expansive and throne-room like interiors and â€˜royal householdâ€™ musicians behind a piano and with violin in hand also being present. The dinner smorgasbord on display, with long rows of seafood delicacies, European and local dishes galore, promised a true culinary feerie to broaden oneâ€™s palate on and eventually exceeded my high expectations. Hats off to the Chief Cook of Diamond Bay Resort & Spa, a natural seafood taste and ingredients aficionado, who won my heart forever with rustic-style calamari skewers and opened up for me an unforgettable taste of sautÃ©ed octopus in thick tomato bath. This octopus-tasting experience was quite different from one in Japan, where a trained staff stands behind guestsâ€™ back ready to tear off the octopus stuck to a dinerâ€™s tongue in its last pre-death spasm. The culinary side of oneâ€™s stay at Diamond Bay Resort & Spa provides a truly healthy and flavourful whole-day buffet option at Universe and Rosy restaurants and can be easily turned into a slow food course to rehabilitate oneâ€™s precious self after a year of workdayâ€™s hectic meals. There are quite a lot of local dishes to indulge in and to excite oneâ€™s palate and senses, including jellyfish salad, great soups, fresh tropical fruits and desserts with waffles, pannacotta with kiwi and exotic sweet banana soup.
There is almost no limit to what visitors can explore and enjoy during their stay. The property features a massive 3000m² free-form pool by the sea for a swim under the stars to remember, a modern fitness center in the glass pavilion to work all the bountiful buffets off, private beach with kayaks and catamarans to spend a great time with kids, many hectares of lush gardens to explore on foot or on a bicycle and a spa centre for total relaxation and rejuvenation. Song Lo Spa Centre, with its extensive spa treatments featuring 120 minutes total revival chakra treatment, 90 minutes massage â€˜a quatre mainsâ€™ with Indian fragrant oils, chocolate wraps and herbs hair masks, all performed by skilled masters, deserves high praise. Besides an expansive and intriguing spa menu, the Song Lo Spa Centre boasts truly relaxing and harmonious interiors with labyrinths of wooden shutters and passages with garlands of living orchids in pots and lily ponds, leading to secluded massage rooms luring enough to be lost in for several days in a row.
The indulgent spa experience can be varied yet further with the 100 Egg mud bath cum eco-park institution, also belonging to the property. 10 quick minutes on a resort shuttle bus and one is in a fairy-tale world built amid green hills, offering the true adventure of taking a mineral mud bath in the mind- blowing egg form tube in the open air, while contemplating the riot of tropical greenery. Apart from exotic balneological treatment served in a giant egg tube, 100 Egg Center offers interesting hiking and walking options plus tasty and exotic treats for a perfect picnic with family. On site, 100 Egg Restaurant with 100 dishes made of eggs, egg coffee included, is definitely worth a visit as well.
Diamond Bay Resort & Spa is a truly impressive four-star international standard seaside retreat with an array of activities and facilities meant for total relaxation to finish oneâ€™s trip through Vietnam or to start it in an impressive way.
Photos: Diamond Bay Resort & Spa