Nestled in the tropical forests of Central Vietnam, this unique wellness destination harnesses the healing power of the natural world, featuring open-air geothermal baths, a five-star spa resort, and the country’s first authentic onsen.
It’s as if the earth is alive.
“That’s incredible,” I say with my hand to the ground. “The rocks, the mud, everywhere. It’s all hot.”
In the crisp air of a December morning, I’m getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the legendary Thanh Tan geothermal spring — the birthplace of Alba’s luxury drinking water brand and the keystone for the company’s entire wellness philosophy. We’re among the rolling foothills of the Truong Son mountains, 30 kilometres from the imperial capital city of Hue, looking down at the 50-hectare Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion. First opened in 2008, the project is now home to the Thanh Tan Hot Springs by Fusion—a family-friendly thermal bath and leisure complex with onsite accommodation—and the five-star Alba Wellness Resort by Fusion. The valley and its various components have been under the management of wellness-led hospitality brand Fusion since December 2018.
On a small mound of earth topped with a simple shrine, magma-heated water spouts miraculously from the bedrock. It’s the end of a century-long journey, from rainwater on the slopes of the nearby mountains, through the earth’s crust and down to the intense heat of the upper mantle, then into steam and back up to the cooler climes of the surface.
Officially “discovered” by French scientists in the 1920s, studies carried out in the 1950s revealed Thanh Tan’s waters to boast an optimal (and constant) pH balance as well as being loaded with health-laden minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonates.
“Of course, the local villagers knew about the spring long before the French arrived in Vietnam,” says my guide, Mai. “They named it Thanh Tan - an old-fashioned phrases which means ‘fresh life’ or ‘new day’.”
In Italian, she adds, the name translates to alba.
With the morning sun still hidden behind the hilltops, the grassy knoll we’re standing on swirls with steam. All around us, 50 to 60-degree water oozes from the ground, twisting and turning down the slope in delicate streams, marbling the soil with earthy rainbows of colour.
Alba Wellness Resort by Fusion
Combining Vietnamese charm with Japanese elegance, the accommodation options in the valley’s five-star resort begin with a rustic collection of one and two-bed thatched bungalows. Echoing a traditional Vietnamese village (albeit with an outdoor pool and cocktail bar at its heart) this tranquil crescent of mud-brick abodes offers spacious, open-plan layouts with private terraces and vegetable gardens, free-to-use bicycles, and a superior level of comfort woven into a back-to-nature, eco-friendly vibe.
Next are the resort’s Deluxe and Premium Deluxe rooms. Based on the minimalist interior of a Japanese ryokan guest house, each exudes style, comfort, and contemporary design along with the forest-fresh aromas of pine — a material used extensively throughout the resort. Many offer views of the nearby ponds, with some ground-floor units opening onto waterside verandas.
The Japanese influence stems from one of the resort’s most distinguishing features: the onsen. Unique to Vietnam, this separate male and female facility recreates an authentic Japanese thermal bathhouse, with spring-water pools both indoors and out and no swimwear permitted.
The onsen journey involves several steps including a micro-bubble silk bath, a refreshing cold bath, and, finally, an open-air soak in a walled Japanese garden. The feeling at the end of the 90-minute journey is almost that of being reborn - clean, fresh, and fully energised, and with incredibly soft skin. The health benefits of a soak in Thanh Tan’s spring waters are reported to include improved blood circulation, reduced stress, reduced joint and muscle pain, and better sleep. The property’s tagline of “A journey back to your true self” certainly rings true here.
Dressed in traditional Japanese yukata gowns, guests can then shuffle from the onsen to the spa. Here, a menu of massages, facials and beauty treatments draws on the natural healing powers of the plants and trees native to the tropical forests nearby. From eucalyptus, ginger, and lemongrass to warm bamboo and mulberry extract, all infused by yet more natural pine scent, the spa smells as good as it feels and feels as good as it looks. Following the recent collaboration between Alba and wellness-inspired hospitality brand Fusion, daily spa treatments, onsen journeys, yoga, and water meditation are now included for all guests at no extra cost.
The resort also provides a Vietnamese-style hot bath experience where bathing suits are permitted. Sociable, rejuvenating, and indulgent, guests can slip into these outdoor pools at any time. Lined with local stones, connected by quaint Japanese bridges, and surrounded by swaying bamboo gardens, each pool offers a chance to sit quietly among nature - a rare pastime in today’s frantic world.
Thanh Tan Hot Springs by Fusion
For those seeking a taste of adrenalin, a spot of culture, or simply more time in the great outdoors, look no further than the resort’s neighbour, a public hot springs and leisure facility. Home to several dining and retail outlets, a state-of-the-art treetop “highwire” adventure course and zip line, a mini water park, a craft village and organic farm, several trekking paths, and, of course, more steaming thermal baths, it’s the perfect choice for active couples, groups, and families.
With picturesque views of the nearby lake and forests, the Thanh Tan Hot Springs Hotel by Fusion provides three-star accommodation for overnight visitors to the springs. These well-appointed rooms feature contemporary design, modern amenities, ensuite bathrooms, and twists of traditional Vietnamese handicrafts.
As Alba’s V.I.P. guests, those staying at the five-star wellness resort are treated to a free daily pass to the Hot Springs. The package also includes complimentary activities including a white-knuckle ride over the treetops on Alba’s 560-metre-long zip line.
Whether staying in the resort or the hotel or just spending the day, visitors to the Alba Wellness Valley shouldn’t leave without hearing the story of Madame Chau — the now legendary pharmacist who acquired the site in the 1990s and founded the company that would eventually become Alba.
Back at the spring, the morning chill is fading as the sun begins its ascent over the valley. “Sadly," says Mai, “Madame Chau passed away in 2012, but she is the reason you are standing here today. She is the reason for all of this.”
Before her passing, explains Mai, the war veteran made sure that the natural beauty of the valley would be preserved to maintain the quality of Thanh Tan’s water forever. While many of the forests nearby were being destroyed for timber, Alba’s founder was responsible for the planting of hundreds of trees and plants on the land surrounding the spring. An eight-kilometre underground pipeline was also installed to allow the commercial bottling of Alba’s drinking water to take place off-site.
The day pass option for the Thanh Tan Hot Springs facility is perhaps the most telling reminder of Madame Chau’s love for her country. “She insisted that the hot springs must always be open to the local people,” adds Mai. “She believed that everyone should benefit from this natural wonder.”
And with that, I retreat to my bungalow to prepare for a quick dip before enjoying a winter warmer breakfast in the elegant Madame Chau restaurant. Or maybe I’ll revisit the spa… again.
The Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion is located approximately 40 minutes from Hue’s international airport, with transfers available on request.