A perfect fusion of culture, history and nature at Banyan Tree Lăng Cô in Central Vietnam.
I slowly open my eyes just as the sun starts peeking over the horizon. Purple and pink reflections subtly transition to yellows and oranges across the infinity pool outside my room, and I can feel the golden warmth as I gently slide my doors open. The sound of the ocean waves overwhelm in a soft and rhythmic pattern. As I dip my toes into the pool, the refreshing water wakes up my senses, and I realize it’s not a dream. What a beautiful way to start the day.
After a few weeks in Vietnam exploring the most bustling cities and trekking remote countryside villages, I wanted to end our journey in a relaxed and beautiful setting. Located on the central coast of Vietnam about an hour north of Da Nang and centrally placed between the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Hue and Hoi An, Banyan Tree Lăng Cô was the perfect choice.
Known as one of the most luxurious hotel brands in the world, I knew our stay would be special, but the entire experience far outweighed any of my expectations. Every touchpoint and interaction we had with the hotel from pick-up to drop-off was thoughtfully planned, executed and performed with a genuine warmth.
The resort features a private beach, seven on-site restaurants, a world-renowned spa, a golf course, endless on-site activities and multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites nearby. Every villa includes a generous private pool with views of either the beach, lagoon, mountains or sea. Whether you’re into culture, history, nature or the art of relaxing, Banyan Tree makes it easy and enjoyable.
Set in a crescent bay next to the East Sea with views of the Truong Son Mountain Range and a two-mile private beach in Vietnam, the property is set up for privacy and exclusivity. Upon arrival, we went directly to our villa without stopping at reception and did our check-in there. Our sweet villa butler walked us through our dining and activity options as well as off-site tours and other notable sites in the area. We were given a local cell phone where we could reach her if we had any problems or questions. She even met us a few times before meals or a spa appointment just to say hello and see how we were doing.
As part of a larger integrated resort complex that includes a sister hotel–Angsana Lăng Cô, an 18-hole golf course, convention facilities and private residences currently being built, the resort offerings are endless but it never feels overwhelming. Quite the opposite as we experienced—everything is tailored and personalized to each individual guest’s needs and preferences.
Walking around it’s evident the resort honors the area’s rich culture and imperial history. There are influences from Vietnamese royal architecture featuring elements like integrated clay tiled pitched roofs and open courtyards with an emphasis on locally sourced materials like bamboo and rattan. In addition, interior decorations such as Champa sandstone sculptures, Dong Son bronze drums, Dong Ho woodblock prints and silk embroideries are seen throughout the property.
A man-made river connects Angsana and Banyan Tree with colorful lanterns adorning the waterway and a Vietnamese Bridge that pays homage to the old town in Hoi An. With a complimentary ferry that brings guests back and forth, it’s a fun mini cruise to take even if you’re not needing to be anywhere in particular.
Dining options include four restaurants at Banyan Tree and three others a short buggy away at Angsana Resort. The brand’s signature Thai restaurant Saffron was our most frequented dinner option with panoramic views of the bay–perfect during sunset. Its creative menu of traditional Thai dishes cooked in a contemporary way were not only delicious but also thoughtfully presented (some too pretty to eat!). A close second favorite of mine was the diverse breakfast spread at The Water Court, which included several cooking stations serving traditional Vietnamese food and western breakfast items. Other options include Azura (Italian fare next to the beach), Thu Quan (bar and all-day snacks) and The Water Court (post-breakfast they serve Vietnamese food).
All sixty-two of Banyan Tree’s one-to-three bedroom villas include a private pool with views of either the beach, a natural lagoon or the surrounding mountains. Set 25 to 86 metres above sea level, the Hillside Pool Villas offer unparalleled views of the East Sea, mountain range, beach, hotel and as described above—dream-like sunrises every morning.
Our three bedroom villa included three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, a dining room, living room, full kitchen, a separate half bathroom and outdoor patio area with sun deck, lounge chairs, jacuzzi and enormous infinity pool.
My bedroom included a king-sized bed, floor to ceiling windows with views of the sea, a long desk behind the bed and a beautiful flower wall painting. The bathroom included his and her sinks, separate toilet and shower spaces and stand-alone tub, also overlooking the sea. The highlights were all the little details like the signature Banyan Tree room scents, Vietnamese-inspired gifts left during turndown and notes from our villa butler wishing us a good day.
After visiting nearby Hue, the ancient Imperial City, I could clearly see the design influence in our villa, especially through the luxurious eggshell lacquer finishes, rich color palette, and detailed latticework. My favorite part of the decor was the juxtaposition of the large scale modern black and white photographs next to the traditional furniture, which looked like they belonged in a museum.
As much as I wanted to just hang out in our villa and relax by the pool (which I did quite a bit), I also made sure to partake in the many cultural and outdoor activities offered by the hotel. Activities included Vietnamese cooking classes, yoga, kayaking, mountain biking, visiting local villages by bike, relaxing at the private beach and taking a swing at the 18-hole championship golf course designed by six–time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo.
Banyan Tree Spa
In my opinion, the best on-site activity was getting pampered at the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa. Known for their Asian therapies and holistic treatments using expertly blended ingredients, aromatic oils and organic herbs, they offer guests ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation—“a Sanctuary for the Senses-a place for physical, mental and spiritual renewal”. The private treatment pavilions are all located next to a lagoon in a relaxed garden setting and each therapist is expertly trained at the Banyan Tree Spa Academies in Phuket (Thailand) or Bintan (Indonesia).
Local Culture and Sites
Like I said above, a huge reason why we chose to stay at Lăng Cô was because of its prime location to many cultural sites such as Hoi An (50km or 90 minutes away), the Imperial Capital of Hue (60km or an hour away), Thien Mu pagoda (60km or an hour away), Khai Dinh Tomb (60km or an hour away), Bach Ma National Park (40km or 80 minutes away) and Lăng Cô (10 minutes away).
The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service, once a day to Hue and twice daily to Hoi An. Private tours are also available for a fee and include a driver and knowledgeable tour guide that can share more information and history about the sites.
Up until 1945, Hue (pronounced Hway) was the capital of Vietnam and the political, cultural and religious center under the Nguyen dynasty, the last ruling family before the new communist government took over. They ruled from 1802 to 1945 and based themselves in Hue.
There are many sites to visit in the city, but we chose to explore the Imperial Enclosure, a large complex which houses the emperor’s former residence, temples and pavilions. We were told the complex is under restoration after many structures were destroyed during the French and American Wars (only 20 of its 148 buildings survived). Despite the ruins, the temples, architecture and artwork were still very impressive and worthy of their listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and a visit!).
These red and yellow doors, as seen below, line the Hall of the Mandarins, a long passage that displays historical documents, paintings and photos showing the history of the Imperial Enclosure and the Nguyen dynasty.
Other notable sites in Hue include the former emperor’s tombs (popular ones are the tombs of Khai Dinh, Tu Duc and Minh Mang) and the Thien Mu Pagoda (with its iconic 7-tiered tower).
With stunning white-sand beaches, turquoise lagoons, lush mountainscapes, charming local fishing villages and fresh seafood, Lăng Cô may be Vietnam’s best hidden gem. A popular drive is the Hai Van pass which offers panoramic views of the town and coastline, with sitings of Da Nang on a clear day.
We were told Lap An Lagoon has the best sunset views so obviously went there in the afternoon. We were blown away. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the water is extremely still within the lagoon, resulting in the prettiest reflections, almost otherworldly with the addition of all the colors during sunset. Staying well into and after sunset, it was just too beautiful to leave, as seen below.
Another fun activity to experience is visiting a local fishing village and riding in a traditional Vietnamese basket boat, which is used by fishermen as transport. The “thung chai” was invented during the French colonial era as a way for the Vietnamese fishermen to avoid paying taxes. Since the French taxed boat ownership, the Vietnamese invented this other type of transportation that functioned like boats, but weren’t exactly boats that were taxable.
Made of bamboo and coated in waterproof resin composed of coconut oil or tar, I was surprised how stable it was considering its shape. As much as I tried rowing the boat, it was challenging not to go in circles until I learned the proper technique of gently waving the paddle back and forth through the water in consistent strokes.
How to Get There
Banyan Tree Lăng Cô is 49 kilometers from Da Nang International Airport or about an hour by complimentary hotel shuttle or private car transfer. There are frequent flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City within the country and multiple daily international direct flights. WiFi is available onboard both transport options.
Thank you Banyan Tree Lăng Cô for hosting me in your oceanfront oasis and introducing me to such an exceptional area of Vietnam. All opinions and photos are my own.
Photos of me by my friend and travel partner Claudio Bezerra.