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A place in Vietnam to put on an organiser’s shortlist

Ana Mandara Hue Hotel

Jane Stanbury enjoyed a luxury stay at the Ana Mandara Hue Hotel

Hue is a cultural ‘must-visit’ for any group travelling to Vietnam. Located on the banks of the Perfume river, it has a fine collection of World Heritage sites including The Citadel, the magnificent ancient royal temple and the tombs of Nguyen emperors featuring time-honoured elaborate gilding, lacquering and intricate woodwork.
Another famous visitor attraction is the Mieu Buddhist Temple. It was here that the Venerable Thich Quang Duc was the resident monk. He self-immolated in 1963 by setting himself on fire on a Saigon road in protest against the oppression of Buddhism by the then President Diem.

Central Hue is a fascinating mix of old temples and shiny new hotels driving the growing tourism economy. It also benefits greatly from its proximity to one of central Vietnam’s loveliest beaches. And this is where you find the Ana Mandara Hue hotel. Situated about 20 minutes’ drive from the centre, the sumptuous beach resort offers visitors the best of all worlds, encompassing Vietnamese dining, an airy spa, sparkling pools, a fabulous beach of golden sand lapped by the calm waters of the South China Sea and easy access to Hue on a regular shuttle bus.

It enjoys three hectares (8 acres) of manicured gardens. Guests choose from a selection of rooms ranging over deluxe and spacious single-storey properties, duplex style accommodation for families and delightful semi-detached beach villas, to sea-view pool villas offering the ultimate in privacy with private pool and tropical gardens. Each category combines traditional Vietnamese style with modern amenities that include flat screen TVs, excellent Wi-Fi access and full room service.

We stayed in a beach villa and, unlike many described as such, it really was a beach villa. When tempted to stray from one of our two terraces, just a few strides and the golden sand was tickling our toes. The beach, whilst not technically private, is used only by hotel guests - thanks to hotel security.

The Ana Mandara Hue provides thick, comfortable sunloungers and large shades to protect from the harsh mid-day sun. There’s always someone on hand to bring you a towel or refreshments from the bar menu. The sand gives way to a sea with gentle, lapping waves. Often flat as a millpond in the morning, there are gentle waves in the afternoon but it remains suitable for any level of swimmer.

The beach villas are spacious single-storey, open-plan properties with glass patio windows giving onto the beach. The sleeping area features a bed so comfortable that it gives you a great big hug when you lie down. The sitting room area provides two sofas, fridge, tea facilities and a desk.
However, the highlight of the villa was the expansive bathroom.

The large walk-in shower, claw-foot, roll-top tub, his-and-hers sinks are all set in beautiful local stone. The crowning touch is the ultimate luxury of an outside shower. The shingle floor features a stone pathway to the shower platform which is fringed with bamboo leaves and offers a starry night canopy after sunset. Ambient lighting adds to the atmosphere of the whole villa. In-room services include beauty therapies, snacks and meals and treats such as barbecues on your villa terrace or a picnic on the beach.

Nothing is too much trouble for the team. They will always go out of their way to make sure you have everything you need. They even made a surprise birthday cake for my partner without being asked.

The communal areas of the hotel include a lovely bamboo-roofed pool bar offering a collection of sun-downer options which tickle your taste buds as you watch the local fishing boats heading out for the evening catch. The Lagoon restaurant offers some of the freshest and finest food in Hue. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on the terrace, which fronts a superbly kept lawn leading to the beach. Breakfast incorporates a range of national dishes that include Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and, of course, British. An ‘egg station’ made fabulous omelettes, or we could choose a Pho noodle dish for a truly traditional start to the day. Fresh, light Vietnamese dishes through to complex Vietnamese dinners feature alongside international choices on the extensive menu.

For an alternative light lunch we could take a short stroll along Ana Mandara’s Thuan An Beach to one of the little beach shacks lined up serving the morning’s catch. Squid hung drying from wooden poles, plastic tubs full of aerated salt water were laden with crabs, tiger prawns, fish and even moray eel. Menu choice was straightforward. We just pointed to what we fancied and the chef suggested how it should be cooked. These meals can also be delivered to the hotel should you fancy authentic local dining. It makes for a superb authentic group experience, as the restaurants are happy to host large groups at any time.

If a day on one of the most peaceful Vietnamese beaches isn’t quite relaxing enough, then guests can visit La Cochinchine Spa where they can select from an array of Asian-influenced massages, body treatments, facials or pampering collections. The therapists may look tiny but they are fiercely strong masseurs. Hot stone treatments, a wonderful choice of body wraps and a selection of beauty treatments lull you into a state of complete inactivity.

Ana Mandura offers three conference rooms, two of board meeting size and one large space that is used for corporate incentive trips and is becoming increasingly popular for weddings. There is a large external terrace for cocktails, dinner and receptions. These facilities have their own kitchen to ensure menus are freshly prepared and served. 
For 2014 there are plans to increase the number of beach villas, to introduce a 9-hole golf course and also tennis courts following the purchase of some neighbouring land. The concierge can also arrange guided tours and will accommodate pretty much any request for as many people as required. If organisers prefer an authentic Vietnamese experience for their groups combined with sheer relaxation under the Asian stars, then this is the place to head for.

Getting there
Finnair is marking 90 years of operations this year and launched three flights a week from Helsinki to Hanoi on 15 June. This expanded its Asian hub offering from Finland to 13 destinations. The predominantly Airbus fleet are extremely comfortable and are attended by charming crew serving great food and service with a genuine smile.

For further details
For on-the-ground group arrangements, Phoenix Voyages is a dedicated group travel operator in South Eastern Asia.

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