Not long ago, I was invited by Carmen Marienberg, a longtime friend and the general manager at Alma Oasis Long Hai, to spend a night at the resort.
I had known the place well for the past 10 years, back when it was named Anoasis Resort. It changed over a year ago when the Serenity Group took over management and completely redesigned the place, including the furnishings. This was my second visit to the new resort and my first overnight stay.
For me and my family the place was always good, as Long Hai is the closest and best beach city near HCMC – a two-hour car ride max, and about 120 km. I departed from District 4 with my daughters and a friend at 4 p.m. on Friday, and we arrived before 6 p.m. without any difficulties.
The new front office was a nice surprise. We received a full brief about the resort and its many free activities. We had a free 90-minute spa journey the next day, a nice surprise. We were also offered a free morning bicycle tour to some of the main attractions nearby, and other fun activities like dancing and Tai Chi.
A Surprising Accommodation
We were then driven in a golf cart to our Garden Terrace room, a simple yet attractive design. It was cosy but spacious at 28 m2, modern yet with traditional Vietnamese elements. One of the nice features of the interior design was that many walls and corners in the room were rounded, good for Feng Shui. The lighting intensity was perfect, as I would expect it to be in such a place. The girls took control of the TV remote, finding the cartoons.
The lights for the bathroom were difficult to locate as they were behind the towels. After a shower, I felt the floor might get a bit too slippery. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by a nice external bathtub surrounded by bamboo and white cement walls. The shower and toilet were separated by glass walls and a clever door system. After a long week, a long Friday and a good drive, I chose to fill the tub with hot water and enjoy a cold beer from the affordable mini bar.
Unfortunately, I discovered that the water heater could not fill the whole tub with hot water and had to settle for a nice half-filled bath instead. Nothing terrible. The soap and shampoo both smelled nice.
Refreshed, I crashed into bed. It was rather small for such a category of hotel, and the mattress felt a little stiff compared with other resorts. No problem for me, as I like the stiffness. I opened my computer to check on missed work and was happy to find Wi-Fi without a password. Later I got ready for dinner. I slipped into the comfortable flip-flops that were provided (my daughters found pairs for themselves as well) and headed off.
Dinner by the Sea
We moved on to My Oasis Restaurant by the sea, settling outside, next to the beach so that we could hear the waves crashing. What better way to start a Friday night! As we settled at our table, the children were given a wooden game of sorts, which turned out to be the kids menu. I had never seen anything like it and the kids loved it.
The nine kids items on the menu sounded delicious. It took my daughters two minutes to settle on the bolognese and the fish, as well as the mini burger with fries. For us, we discovered an extensive menu with Vietnamese, Thai and Mediterranean specialities. Twelve kinds of starters ranged from VND80,000 to VND120,000, while 36 main courses ran between VND90,000 and VND250,000. I did not finish reading everything, settling rapidly for an inexpensive pad thai at VND140,000, all charges included. English was not yet fully grasped by the staff and meant that I had to use some of my terrible Vietnamese. We ordered a bottle of rose wine, the only one available (there were plenty of other wines), for VND450,000. I’m not keen on rose, but my friend and Carmen, who joined us at the restaurant, enjoyed it. Soon after, we headed to bed.
Breakfast of Champions
The next morning, we woke up early and had breakfast around 6:30 a.m. The sun was rising over the ocean and it felt great to be at the restaurant while watching the sea. Even if everything wasn’t finished yet, serious improvements had been made since my last visit.
The breakfast was perfect, everything we needed to start a good day. They even had good espresso. Later, I had a regular coffee which tasted good, nothing like the usual Robusta types we often get in some 3 or 4 star hotels in Vietnam. I was surprised to see that 12 kinds of tea were offered.
The eight kinds of jam were similar to the ones you’d find in Six Senses properties, meaning great, with aromas and flavours difficult to find in Vietnam. As a Frenchman, I was a bit disappointed by the two bread choices: white or dark. The choice of eight cereals made up for this, however. Pastries were also on offer, including donuts, which are uncommon. Usual breakfast fare like eggs, bacon and salads were of good quality.
After breakfast, we decided it was time to go to the pool. We were delighted by the new swimming area here, which was very well thought out. There was ample space for swimming and many areas around the sides. The water wasn’t too hot and the pool wasn’t too deep, providing a safe feeling for parents with children. Many of the cushioned recliners were in the pool, in areas where the water was shallow.
At 9:30 a.m. the music suddenly started. Because it was Sunday, I was expecting calm by the poolside. But after a minute or two I began to see staff dancing on the grass. I’d never seen hotel staff pumping the volume and dancing. I was invited, along with my girls, to join in and have some fun. We got into it and really enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, I lay on one of the large, shaded sofas by the pool, opened up my computer and caught up on some work; the Wi-Fi signal was good. The staff, in the meantime, played with the children.
For those who prefer fitness in a more conventional environment, there is a small fitness room opposite the spa, with a walker and multi-purpose machines. There is also a Bliss Boutique shop at the top of the hill from here that has all the accessories you might require, including swimsuits, suntan lotion, hats, sunglasses and more.
After lunch a short nap, we were scheduled to go to the spa. We were welcomed in a spacious, open-air area, with private bungalows spread out around a pond filled with fish and lotus flowers. It was an inspiring environment, the music light, soft, and welcoming. They sat us down and explained the different menus.
My friend and I chose “Spa Journey 2: Tale of the magic banyan tree”. We had a nice welcome drink and went into the modern sauna, and afterwards spent time in the steamroom. After half an hour of heat, we went to get our 50-minute massage in a room with two comfortable beds.
There was no pain or incorrect technique during the massage. Everything was done with tact, and I was relieved of any stress thanks to the skillful shiatsu. I even fell asleep for a while.
Our children were invited for a spa treatment, an unusual offer and perfect for parents. My daughters had a free hour-and-a-half of pampering. They had their nails trimmed and painted, their hair done, and had light therapy on their hands and feet. They never went to a spa before, and were surrounded by other children and loved every minute. It’s pleasing to know your children are well taken care of while you get pampered. Outside the kids club spa times, there is a kids club by the pool. Weekend activities include building sandcastles on the beach.
Unbeatable Value for the Money
At the end of our stay, everything went smoothly at the checkout. When we consider the value of the resort, which offers modern amenities, wellpriced food, many inclusive activities and the possibility to visit the 11 attractions nearby for free, along with bicycle tours every morning, it is very worthwhile. Few hotels include such inclusive treatment, especially a free spa treatment for you and your kids.
As an interesting aside, Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, stayed at an art deco villa in the area. The villa is still perched on top of a hill with stunning views. Inside, the display retraces his life when he stayed in this part of Vietnam, and is well worth a visit. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Entry costs VND20,000. The terrace now serves as an outdoor cafe.