Located on the edge of the Saigon River about 15km away from Ho Chi Minh City, the best and fastest way to reach An Lam Retreats is by boat. For guests, there's a complimentary water shuttle to and from the city centre three times a day and we arrive on the first boat in the late morning just before the monsoon showers begin. The resort is boutique small, a collection of wooden houses built within lush tropical gardens, with the most luxurious villas right on the banks.
We're led first to the restaurant, a deck suspended over the water with clusters of handmade lanterns hanging from the ceiling, where our passports are whisked away and we're given a menu to choose our preferred welcome drink. We select the An Lam special, a fresh fruit cocktail of orange, passion fruit and watermelon, which we sip whilst watching boats peacefully float past. It's here a la carte breakfast is served as well as an all-day dining menu of local Vietnamese dishes and Western favorites.
When our drinks are finished, our cheerful butler Miss Viet leads us up a wooden spine staircase to our room; a top floor pool suite, which vaguely resembles a mountain chalet with dark wooden panelling and large windows opening out to a jungle view. Each of the rooms is uniquely designed and ours is tasteful and spacious, fragrant with the scent of a burning lemongrass candle, but a little too sparse on homely touches.
The muted color palette, however, is calming and in keeping with the natural theme of the resort. The bathroom is the most beautiful space, with a stand alone bathtub set on a bed of pebbles and a generous supply of amenities and exclusive spa products, whilst the deck around the private swimming pool is relaxing place to lounge in the sun, listening to the birds singing in the trees.
There's a stunning main swimming pool too, just a few meters back from the river, and an elevated viewing platform, in the style of a nest, for sunset cocktails. The resort is designed to harmoniously blend in with nature, offering a calm and quiet sanctuary where you can spend long, lazy days reading in the shade of the trees, but if you're the restless type, there's also an afternoon schedule of complimentary activities such as wellness workshops, cooking demonstrations and Vietnamese coffee classes.
You can borrow one of the resort's fishing rods to trail a line in the river or book in for a treatment at the jungle spa; the serenity lavender massage is the highlight, designed to gently soothe and rebalance. There are also daytime cultural excursions to the Cu Chi tunnels where you can learn more about the Vietnamese war and rowing boat trips through mystical mangrove forests of the Can Gio UNESCO biosphere reserve.
It's the service though that really stands out at An Lam. The staff are genuinely warm and friendly and go out of their way to make your stay as relaxing as possible. On the day of checkout we have to leave early to catch a train and Miss Viet thoughtfully calls us up the evening before to ask if we would like to pre-order our breakfast so that we can have a few extra precious minutes in bed. Then in the morning, she arranges for our bags to be loaded into the taxi so that when we finish breakfast, we're ready to go. It's those kind of details that can really transform a holiday.