A highlands retreat in Dalat with Ana Mandara
Dalat is the antithesis of Vietnam's hazy, humid cities.
Cool springtime weather, modest colonial architecture and a relaxed atmosphere have created a place where many travellers linger for longer than they originally planned.
We understood why, after spending a relaxing three days at Ana Mandara Villas.
History & Location
Dalat was the ideal hill station town, once a haven for the French who sought relief from the heat. The majority of the villas in Dalat's old Bellevue Quarter, where Ana Mandara stands, were built in the 1920s and 1930s. The villas are located a fifteen-minute walk from the centre of town, in a quiet area with sweeping views over the highlands.
Those who hanker for history will notice the references to Dalat's past. Villa Number 13, the 'Scientist', is named in honour of Alexander Yersin, a French doctor. At the time the villa was built, Dalat was home to a hospital which became a large research centre, especially for bacteriological research.
After the resort was purchased by Bernhard Bohnenberger, of the Six Senses Resort group, it was lovingly restored by Brigitte Dumon de Chassart, a French interior architect, who kept the original flavour of the villas.
It was huge. It took up nearly the entire top floor of our building and it was beautifully constructed. The wood floors and old fireplaces conveyed colonial elegance, complimented by the replica furniture. Paintings of Vietnam adorned the walls and the vintage gramophone was a nice touch. It is clear that real care has gone into preserving the historic qualities of the villas.
A bright, airy living room with sofa, armchairs, writing desk and television is followed by a large bathroom with his-and-her sinks, a clawfoot bathtub complete with wooden plank and rain shower. Inside the bedroom are two ridiculously comfy beds, with effective mosquito nets tucked above the soft linen bedsheets.
Restaurant, pool & spa
The onsite restaurant boasts original floor tiles and is home to a majestic breakfast buffet. Fresh ingredients from their own gardens and farms nearby are laid out neatly, from pastries and cheeses to noodle soup. We don't think anything will ever beat the delicious a la carte breakfast of the Alila Ubud, but it sure was tasty!
'Le Petit' is also open for dinner, serving up French and Vietnamese dishes, however we didn't dine there ourselves so cannot comment on the evening options.
A short walk away is the outdoor heated pool, surrounded by towering pine trees and comfortable sun loungers.
There is also a spa, which offers a wide range of treatments at upmarket prices.
What we loved
We loved the zen vibe around the villas. We'd spend our time reading, lounging by the pool, wandering the grounds, taking long, foamy baths and having comfortable naps in our huge beds. Chirping birds and wind in the trees provided the soundtrack to an incredibly calm few days.
What could be improved
The wifi was frequently non-existent in our villa, and average at best in the common areas. We would sometimes arrive at the pool bar or reception to find no one there, and there were a few times when requests were not understood or passed on to relevant staff members (e.g. the transfer of our bags via golf buggy from our villa to the reception, a 5-10 minute walk away).
Things to Note
As the wifi isn't great, consider investing in a Vietnamese sim card if you plan to be online a lot, or make sure you download books onto your Kindle before you arrive.
The staff can help you book taxis and bus tickets, just be sure to let them know at least a day in advance.
We caught a bus to Dalat from Ho Chi Minh City which took around 7 hours (VND 210,000 / USD 9).
From Dalat's bus station on the outskirts of town, Phuong Trang (and at least one other bus company) offers a free shuttle to your hotel, though not many people seem to know about it, meaning that many disembark and pay for a taxi anyway. We travelled to Ana Mandara for free with this shuttle, however it is a bit out of town, so some drivers may demand a small fare.
We left Dalat by plane, and the resort organised a metered Mai Linh taxi for us to the starting point for the shuttle bus (VND 40,000 / USD 1.75) that runs from the centre of town.
Prices & booking DETAILS
Room start from around $120 per night, including breakfast. You can book via their website.
For the lowest rates, book with Agoda as we do.
Across Land & Sea was invited to stay at Ana Mandara Villas. As ever, all opinions, photographs and typos are our own.
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