Emeralda Resort is an unspoilt gem that offers perfect way to enjoy authentic charm of rural Vietnam
By CATRIONA CONWAY-MORTIMER
TRAVELLING through north and central Vietnam this April led me to the breathtaking province of Ninh Binh.
Unlike the more established tourist areas such as Hoi An and Hanoi, Ninh Binh is still adapting to the attention that its landscape and natural beauty draw in.
This is a great benefit for travellers wishing to enjoy Vietnam’s authentic self, away from Western influence and the abundance commercial tourist outlets.
While in Ninh Binh, I stayed at Emeralda Resort – a serene retreat tucked away in the province’s charming rural area. Emeralda really is the place to stay if you’re planning a trip to Ninh Binh.
With five swimming pools – including one indoor heated pool – two fantastic restaurants, a gym, spa and the capacity to accommodate over 360 people, such a large resort right next to a traditional and natural area could be imposing and look out of place.
But Emeralda has been impeccably designed in this way. Tucked away behind its gated entrance, it is discreet and entirely unimposing on its surroundings. So much so that I was surprised to discover the sheer size of the resort when I first entered.
Guests at Emeralda stay in individual villas – perfect for that extra feeling of privacy – connected by paths through beautiful greenery. Though if you don’t love walking, golf buggies are on call to take you wherever you want to go.
The villas are certainly luxurious, though still feel authentic and not ostentatious. Apart from the carefully carved wooden ceiling, shown off by carefully engineered lighting, what I loved most about the villa was the bathroom.
Inside, the bathroom was spacious, with double sinks, a free-standing bath and a separate large shower. But the bathroom extended through the back door, where there was another shower in the garden – a novelty factor that I loved.
Ninh Binh is without doubt a destination not to be overlooked for those planning a trip to Vietnam and Emeralda Resort is the ideal location to escape to after navigating the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s busy city centres.
Emeralda really can’t be beaten in terms of location. Situated just a ten minute walk from Ninh Bihn’s stunning nature reserve, Van Long, the tranquil resort enjoys spectacular views of the dramatic limestone landforms, appropriately nicknamed “Ha Long Bay on land.”
But don’t worry about feeling cut-off from the city centre – Emeralda puts on a frequent shuttle service that drops off and picks up guests in the centre of town.
The outdoor pools, with spectacular views are perfect for relaxing by in the hot, sunny weather. But for evenings and winter stays Emeralda also has a heated, indoor pool which is styled beautifully with its signature rich wooden ceilings, meaning you’re never deprived of your holiday swim.
Emeralda’s La Cochinchine spa was a highlight of the stay. With masseuses that were both skilled and professional, I left the spa after a 45-minute body massage feeling refreshed and as if I was floating around in a bubble.
Before my stay, I was told that Emeralda was home to the best breakfast in Ninh Binh and I was delighted to discover that this was in fact true. With something for everyone – from fresh tropical fruit to traditional Vietnamese dishes made for you at the counter – Emeralda served up by far the best breakfast of the trip.
Food at Emeralda is excellent. Its Organics restaurant, which seats 120 people, offers a great Vietnemese taster menu that lets you sample a range of delicious, local dishes. But if you’re looking to venture out for a local bite one night, Nhà hàng Ng?c Ph??ng restaurant, just outside the resort, is a hidden treasure.
One thing that didn’t go unnoticed during my time at Emeralda was that I was finally staying in a hotel that actually took its environmental policy seriously. After spending over a week of drinking from plastic bottle after plastic bottle – for which there were rarely any obvious recycling facilities – it was refreshing to have Emeralda’s own, glass-bottled water in the villa. Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, too, were in environmentally friendly, refillable dispensers.
The resort’’s location really is magical and exploring Van Long reserve, just on the doorstep, is best done by boat. On the peaceful row through the flooded rice fields, if the sun is in, it’s likely you’ll catch sight of a Delacour’s Langur – a critically endangered monkey with its largest surviving population in Van Long.
So, if you’re planning your trip to Emeralda, this is an activity not to be missed.
To find out more: http://www.emeraldaresort.com