A dozen deteriorated French-built villas in Dalat are being restored to their former glory to provide a retreat for those seeking a cool climate in the Central Highlands resort city.
The French built the 2,000 elegant villas in the early 20th century with the aim of developing Dalat into the largest resort in Indochina.
Many are now deteriorating or illegally occupied and local authorities are enticing developers to upgrade and transform the villas into hotel accommodation.
Renovations are underway on a string of villas in Le Lai street to turn the properties into the luxury Ana Mandara resort.
Of the 17 villas on site, which were constructed in 1920s and 1930s, 15 have been converted into fully serviced hotel lodgings, with the remaining two being converted into a restaurant and spa.
The villas will provide 57 lovingly restored rooms with great effort taken to preserve their original design, decor and charm, according to the management company Six-senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas, which is operating the award-winning Ana Mandara Resort and Evason Hideaway in Nha Trang.
The gently sloping hillside area where Ana Mandara Villas Dalat is located was originally known as the Bellevue Quarter, a nod to its history of rich French influence.
Ana Mandara Villas Dalat general manager Hayden Winch said the facility is aiming for a mid-2006 opening.
“Rates at this stage are yet to be devised, however, they will be comparable to Ana Mandara Resort Nha Trang, although generally lower than our Evason Hideaway at Ana Mandara,” said Winch.
Six-senses will charge $550 for a room per night next year at its Evason Hideaway resort near Nha Trang, where it is operating 45 seaside villas, each with its own plunge pool, wine cellar and butler.
The Ana Mandara is one of a few projects that aim to restore the French colonial villas into hotel accommodation in the highland city, once known as “the little Paris of Vietnam”.
The earliest restoration was the renaissance of the Sofitel Dalat Place Hotel. The hotel was built in 1922 and accommodated various French governors, King Bao Dai and other heads of state. It was restored to its glory as a 43, five-star room hotel in 1995 and is now managed by Accor group.
The other, which came into operation two months ago, involved 20 dilapidated villas on a five-hectare site on Nguyen Du street. The villas were built during 1950s as a retreat for French officials and affluent Vietnamese in the former Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.
As the villas were too deteriorated to be restored, Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group decided to pull them down and make way for eight new buildings with a total of 100 rooms. Other villas are expected to get off the ground in the second phase to provide another 50 rooms.
French-built villas in Dalat often cover an area of 1,000 to 2,000 sqm. There are several palaces of over 10,000 sqm such as Palace 1, 2 and 3, which were reserved for high-ranking French officials and Emperor Bao Dai, the last king of Vietnam.
The villas often have three storeys and are nestled amidst pine trees on high locations or by lakes with open views of flower gardens, pine tree hills and valleys.
After 1975, most of the villas were confiscated by the State but many have deteriorated and some have lost their original architecture due to modifications or extensions.