Stepping into the light

15:38 | 06/07/2012
The stunning Sun Spa Resort & Spa and the Thien Duong (Paradise) cave have both helped put the impoverished Quang Binh province onto the map, writes Nhat Ha

The first time I travelled to Dong Hoi capital town of Quang Binh province last year, I did not think about making a reservation at Sun Spa Resort.

As far as I was concerned, Quang Binh was well off the beaten track. I imagined the resort would be mostly empty and the staff would be delighted to see a customer pulling up outside the lobby.

To my surprise, when I came, the hotel lobby was buzzing with guests.

I wondered what had lured so many tourists here to a destination that is roughly 400km from Hanoi and 150 kilometres from Hue. It’s a province with strong historical associations – it is the homeland of General Vo Nguyen Giap and sections of the legendary “Ho Chi Minh Trail” – but also impoverished fishing villages and scant infrastructure.

There is one big obvious attraction – Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, home to the incredible and bewitching Thien Duong cave, which many of the guests had come to see in particular. The province is also home to some stunning beaches, the perfect compliment to a day of exploring caves. As other destinations become increasingly developed – Nha Trang, Danang, and Mui Ne for example – there is also an inevitable shift to lesser-known spots.  There are direct flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi airport. This has certainly helped boost tourism in the area.  

Thien Duong (Paradise) cave opened up to tourists two years ago. Acclaimed by the British Royal Cave Association as “the largest and the most beautiful cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang area and the longest dry cave in Asia”, Thien Duong cave is 31.4km in length and home to some stunning stalagmites and stalactites, all hundreds of millions of years in the making.  

Discovered in 2005, Thien Duong cave looks like a landscape painting, making it very attractive to visitors. It is located within the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. After you enter the cave, you can walk along a long wooden bridge and examine the white crystal stalactites up close.

The amazing cave has been developed as a tourism site by Truong Thinh Group, the prestigious construction group, which is also behind the Sun Spa Resort, the well-equipped high-end resort where I’m staying. The resort offers 236 rooms and a cluster of 34 luxury villas and bungalows. This compound certainly raised the bar for luxury tourism in Quang Binh. A pool villa will set you back from $460 to $1,437 a night – a rate on a par with the likes of The Nam Hai between Danang and Hoi An.

Established seven years ago, Sun Spa Resort is nestled on Bao Ninh peninsula, thus affording guests stunning views. The traditional architecture and décor is complimented by all the mod-cons and luxurious services you would expect of a world class beach resort.  

The group magically turned a wild and desolate sandy beach into a true paradise. The weather can be blistering hot during the height of summer, but Sun Spa is like a lush and verdant oasis for guests seeking solace from the sunshine. Covering 29 hectares of carefully landscaped gardens, Sun Spa is located where the legendary Nhat Le river meets the pristine white sands of Nhat Le Beach, about 60km from Thien Duong cave.  

When construction started on the resort, there was no bridge between the mainland and the peninsula. The developer had to transport materials and trees by ferry. But after 20 months, the isolated peninsula had been transformed into an idyllic resort, which is routinely featured in lists of Vietnam’s finest luxurious hotels. The resort was also featured on a list of the world’s 500 most luxurious hotels and resorts compiled by the World Hotel Association.  

Truong Thinh Group has managed to awaken this sleepy corner of the Vietnamese coastline and built a venue where holiday makers can bask in the lap of luxury while also turning Thien Duong cave into an attractive tourist site.

Currently, Sun Spa Resort is offering a wide variety of summer promotions with air tickets, accommodation in a deluxe room, breakfast, lunch, dinner and airport transfer all inclusive. Check out www.sunsparesortvietnam.com to find out more. 

vir.com.vn

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