An untouched waterfall, terraces of rice fields and a jungled mountainside setting form the underpinnings of Avana Retreat, a spectacular new 15-hectare resort in Vietnam’s Mai Chai Province, a 3.5-hour drive from Hanoi.
Opened quietly during the pandemic, the 36-villa property features spacious, indigenous design, a spa built on a stream and one of the most majestic dining opportunities to be found in Southeast Asia.
“It’s one thing to build a resort near the wonders of nature but to build in the midst of all this natural splendor, with a footprint as light and retractable as we have, makes for an immersive experience that can be overwhelming,” said Mr. Vu Huy, founder of Avana Retreat.
With architecture that leverages local Hmong and Thai building techniques and aesthetics, the resort’s 36 villas range in size from 98-square-meters (1,054-square-feet) to 229-square-meters (2,465-square-feet). Some of the villas optimize outdoor opportunities with balconies as large as 35-square-meters (377-square-feet). One villa perches on top of a terrace of rice fields. Three of the villas boast private pools, and the most exclusive villa features an 89-square-meter (958-square-feet) private heated pool that climbs in tiers like a visual echo of the rice terraces.
The roofs of the bungalow villas are thatched, like the local stilt houses and the walls are made of earth as is common with Hmong homes. The rattan ceilings are made using a Thai weaving technique. The warm wood interiors feature local arts and crafts, including hand-drawn beeswax paintings of intricate ethnic patterns.
The lantern-lined pathways and bridges that wind through the jungle of the property highlight the location, without tampering with it. The private waterfall, which inspired the development when discovered by the founders a decade ago, is the backdrop for private dinners and intimate parties with a terraced deck overlooking the cascade.
The resort’s open-air yoga studio pavilion juts over the stream. The property’s eight-treatment-room Orchid Spa is built along the stream, which courses through the site, and immerses guests in nature through both the therapies on offer and the lush landscape that surrounds. Spa treatments look to the landscape with local healing herbs and oils used in therapies that range from facials and body wraps through to comprehensive pampering packages like the Wild Reconnection. This signature 3-3.5 hour transformative experience includes a body exfoliation using local products, a toning and firming wrap, a relaxing facial, and a signature body massage that uses firm pressure and the stimulation of acupressure points, as well as warm Vietnamese herbal packs.
The property features four heated infinity pools with views of the sunset or cloud ceiling. The aptly-called Cloud Pool Bar, is named after this phenomenon, where the fluffy cloud cover settles just below the property for an almost other-worldly view. At this dining destination guests can enjoy a tipple, light snacks or lunch with a menu featuring local specialities, like a banana flower salad, and western-style fare like pizza, pasta, and sandwiches.
Avana’s all-day dining restaurant, Green Chili, offers an impressive selection of dishes from pho and Australian Wagyu Beef to a line-up of vegetarian and vegan options. As much as possible the team uses local herbs, spices and vegetables. They source organic eggs from a chicken farm on property.
Leveraging what’s local is a priority across the board. More than 90% of the staff are from the surrounding area.
To stay in harmony with the area, Avana is also a plastic- free retreat. Trash bags are made from corn starch, organic materials are composted, and they have their own Avana bottle plant to produce purified drinking water. They use an electric buggy service, to take guests around the resort, and continue to add to the diversity of the region through their tree-planting program.