Viet Nam News
By Thúy Hằng
Japan has uncountable specialities that make the country awesome and unique. The ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ is known for sushi, sumo, samurai, and onsen, which means natural hot spring and the bathing facilities and resorts situated around them. As a country of active volcanoes, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered across the country. No stay in Japan is complete without going to an onsen.
However, you may need to loosen your purse-strings before you can dip into the hot spring. Alongside money for travel and accommodation, you have to spend about five to six hours sitting on a plane to get to Japan.
Luckily though, the amazingly relaxing and therapeutic experience of onsen is now available in Việt Nam.
Located 30km north of Huế City, the newly opened Alba Wellness Resort is nestled in a tranquil land cradled by tropical forest, hot and cold streams and a local lifestyle rich in Huế traditions.
Built on the birthplace of a natural hot spring sourced from the depth of Trường Sơn mountain range, Alba Wellness Resort is an oasis of calm. The resort’s design features a combination of Japanese and Vietnamese architecture with rural landscape such as wooden gates, bamboo paths and red bridges over streams.
From Hà Nội, I arrived at the property last week, on a cold and rainy day. “Damn weather,” I thought, without knowing that the drizzle would enhance my experience at this getaway resort.
Boasting a natural hot spring, a precious gift of nature scattering around the property, Alba Wellness Resort offers Việt Nam’s first authentic onsen and spa centre, where I enjoyed a seven-step contemporary Japanese bath.
Although I had experience with traditional onsen in Japan, where nudity is required, I was as a bit hesitant to strip off and bathe in front of other ladies. (There are separate spaces for men and women.) My embarrassment vanished quickly after I got into the ‘silk bath’ pool, which had thousands of small bubbles that I used to cover my skin.
There is a wide range of onsen baths and facilities both in-house and outdoor such as mineral water bath, silk bath, jet bath, garden mineral water bath, cold bath, sauna and steam bath. Relax your muscles, and let the hot water warm you, nourish your body tissue and make your skin smooth. With different health benefits, the baths complement each other to create a unique seven-step onsen journey.
You can start in any bath, but don’t forget to end in the open-air bath set in a traditional Japanese garden. Here, at one with nature, under the curtain of rain and letting the cold rain drops hit on my face, for the first time in my life, I enjoyed to the fullest the seduction of the contrast between coldness and warmness. That is when I realised that I was blessed with the rain.
Following the relaxation of the onsen, I pampered myself with a 30-minute massage at the spa centre, where I enjoyed a combination of therapeutic skills, quiet music and aromatherapy.
Surrounded by lakes, gardens and tranquil bamboo paths, Alba Wellness Resort is divided into two separate areas: Alba Inn and Alba Village. While Alba Inn is designed with a sense of contemporary Japanese style, Alba Village evokes the rustic beauty of Vietnamese countryside with cottage roofs, bamboo fences and vegetable gardens.
In the tranquil ambience of the resort, I took part in mind and body exercises such as yoga and meditation. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a breathing class conducted by ‘breathing master’ and yoga teacher Dominique Lonchant. The class helped attendees discover the immense power and benefits of proper breathing. A Hong Kong man, who was among the attendees, told me that the class “opened his eyes”.
Keen on discovering the surroundings, I registered to join a ‘Discovery Journey’ to learn about local lifestyles through a cycling tour to visit nearby countryside markets, temples and pagodas and old villages.
However, it was raining most of the time during my stay at the resort so the tour was unavailable. Instead, during a short moment when the sun peaked out from the heavy and grey clouds, I walked to an organic farm, where I met farmers to learn about their work and their plants.
A farmer invited me to try a special tea made of 10 different kinds of forest leaves picked by the farmers. The taste of the tea is so unique that none of the tea I tried before can compare, especially when you drank amid nature, next to a vast green field and imposing mountain range.
Wishing to experience something more risky, I also tried the Alba zipline. The 560m-long zipline is the longest in Southeast Asia. The feeling when I was flying like an arrow above the tree tops, over the streams and lakes, was amazing.
The ‘Adventurous Journey’ also includes a trek through Trường Sơn forest. — VNS