Banyan Tree ThailandFirst Look – Playground for Royals: Banyan Tree Lăng Cô
Lagoon or beach? For that’s the age-old question, with the opening of the Banyan Tree Lăng Cô. Unadulterated Vietnam, Lăng Cô is as secluded now as it was back when it was a playground for Vietnamese royals. Unlike current-day royals (ahem, Harry and Kate), they were no rookies when it came to privacy. While there’s not much you can do if photos are leaked by your party people, the two-mile telescopic paparazzi lens doesn’t stand a chance here. Located on prime real estate on the central coast, between the Chinese-influenced north and the Indian south, it’s a land of temples, pagodas, and palaces. You know – just your average UNESCO World Heritage sites. Not to mention mountains and crystal seas. The lush Truong Son range is behind you and the East Sea, framed by a two-mile white-sand crescent, is in front. This is no war zone anymore. The only battle will be to tear yourself away from the beach lounger.
An all-villa, dynasty-inspired resort, this is the kind of five-star retreat that only Southeast Asia could deliver. While lagoon or beach are your two choices at Banyan Tree, really, you can’t go wrong with either. Like mini patched-roof palaces, all 49 villas are done up in authentic Vietnamese architecture with open courtyards, sandstone sculptures, and regional art. And regardless of the view, you get your own private plunge pool and sundeck. Even those royals never had it this good.
Add in an 18-hole, Sir Nick Faldo-designed golf course that weaves through rice paddies, streams, and rock formations, and a holistic spa that specializes in Asian therapies (no, not those kind – get your mind out of the trenches), and you have yourself the ingredients for a vacation. Golf, spa, plunge pool, repeat. And while the surrounding area is pure Vietnam, the food is fusion of the best kind. Four on-site gourmet restaurants introduce Vietnamese style to French, Italian, and Thai cuisine.
Best of all: The Laguna Lăng Cô complex is a twofer, so you can have twice the vacation. Sister property Angsana Lăng Cô is right next door. The 229-room hotel is more contemporary, but with all the luxe amenities, from romantic suites to a spa adorned in native flowers. In short, five-star at Banyan Tree means ten-star elsewhere. They should really get a bonus star for locale too.
(Photos: Banyan Lang Tree Co, courtesy of Banyan Lang Tree Co)