Bai Tram Bay has it all: mountains, ocean, breakfast at 3pm Leaving the airport near the city of Qui Nhon, we embarked by car on National Highway 1A southward to Bai Tram Bay in Phu Yen Province, a central coastal area famed for its seductively sandy beaches. It was early morning and the road was all but deserted. The surrounding countryside was a sparkling, lush green and we could feel the freshness of the ocean air. Before reaching Cu Mong Lagoon in Xuan Tho fishing village near the bay, we decided to stop at a small roadside restaurant to stifle our hunger pains. The dishes - green bean and pork porridge, boiled liver, and organ meats served with banh hoi (rice noodle), herbs and sweet and sour fish sauce - were tasty treats that no traveler should miss. We continued our journey on the 5km road leading to Bai Tram Bay in Xuan Canh Commune about 30km from Quy Nhon. Though the road was steep and winding, it offered a glimpse of the area’s natural beauty and local traditions. The surrounding landscape of the village market, rice fields and shrimp and green mussel farms all created a vivid picture of the area’s rural lifestyle. Here, tourists can sleep overnight in a simple home stay or relax at Bai Tram Hideaway’s luxury villas, a newly opened five-star resort. From Bai Tram Bay, the entire area below the Cu Mong Pass, which is a gateway to the central coastal region, can be explored. Overlooking the ocean, the resort Bai Tram Hideaway is nestled inside a 900m crescent-shaped beach surrounded by verdant mountains. The resort’s entrance offers guests a splendid view of the entire area, including sandy beaches and green fields. Developed and managed by the Amsterdam-headquartered La Perla International Living, the resort consists of 200 villas designed in a Vietnamese style, spread over 90ha of land with a secluded beachfront, giving the place a true hideaway sensation. "All of the villas were designed to ensure that visitors enjoy the ultimate beachfront lifestyle in a tropical ambience, where the daily stress of modern living can be forgotten," Khanh Van, marketing manager of La Perla International Living (Viet Nam), said. "We focused on building an environmentally friendly resort so the villas were built with a coconut-leaf roof and clay walls, keeping it natural, though the interior is equipped with modern facilities to ensure the best comfort," Van says. Stephen Post, La Perla International Living’s hospitality director, says the concept of Bai Tram gives guests the opportunity "to recharge their batteries in a short time with a long-lasting effect." The main building of the resort, which overlooks the ocean, has a lounge, restaurant, bar and swimming pool. Entering the building, guests walk down a small path that crosses a rice field and fruit and herb garden, which are taken care of by locals and farmers who work as resort staff. The organically grown rice, vegetables and herbs provide the resort’s kitchen with a wealth of fresh food for use in local and international dishes. "What you eat in Bai Tram is healthy and of high quality. We use these ingredients in our cooking classes," Stephen says. Sascha Spiegel, the resort’s acting general manager, says guests, especially children, can learn more about rural life by working in the fields and garden or taking part in the cooking classes held in a cottage in a rice field. Bai Tram is famous for its lobster fishing, and freshly caught grilled lobster is a specialty of the restaurant, Sascha says. Meal times at the resort are flexible, unlike many other hotels. "We have a no time limit policy," says Stephen. "That means if you want to have breakfast at 3pm, it’s not a problem. Guests can choose their favorite location to enjoy a meal. It can be near the mountain, on the beach, in the rice field, or in the villa, the restaurant or beside the lap pool." Taking advantage of all the resort has to offer, we warmed up in the early morning by swimming in our villa’s private pool while other guests took to the beach after climbing up the hill to watch the sun rise. Exploring the bay’s surroundings is an alternative for those who are more physically active. In the late morning, we chose to walk while other guests rode motorbikes. The trekking offered us interesting insights into the local culture. By late afternoon, we departed by boat from the beach to view the sea, rocks and shrimp farms around the Cu Mong Lagoon. We were astonished to see how blue and clean the deep sea was and were excited to spot a few local residents netting fish in the ocean. Although some of the resort staff were with us, we were still a little frightened as it was the first time that some of us had been offshore in a boat. In the late afternoon, guests can opt to go fishing in the lagoon while watching the sun set behind the mountains. The resort’s kitchen staff is available for most of the day and evening to prepare dishes made with freshly caught fish. Before having dinner, our group visited a small fishing village in Xuan Binh Commune, about a 20-minute drive from Bai Tram, an area famous for its seafood, particularly snails and crabs. Surprisingly, there were no tables at the floating restaurants in the village, so we all sat down on a floor mat. It was the freshest seafood that I had ever had, two-thirds the price of similar dishes in Ho Chi Minh City City. After a hard, long day of touring and trekking, we opted for a facial and foot treatment late at night. The spa and massage treatments at the resort were a stimulating but soothing end for our weary city souls. How to go: Leaving Phu Cat Airport in the central coastal city of Qui Nhon, about 700km from Ho Chi Minh City City, take National Highway 1A southward to Bai Tram Bay in Song Cau District, Phu Yen Province. If you are staying at Bai Tram Hideaway, the resort will pre-arrange your transport by car.
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