by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
The beautiful stretch of white sandy beach lining Cam Ranh Bay boasts more than 200 sunny days a year and a mild average temperature.
New resorts have been popping up here and there, all trying to outdo what came before.
Alma Resort, which opened in May, has welcomed a fairly constant influx of Vietnamese holidaymakers since social distancing measures, aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, were eased a few weeks ago.
June has always been the hottest month in Hà Nội, and taking a two-day break to revel in a sea breeze is a great escape from the city’s noise and heat and, these days, coronavirus-related stress. It still felt a little odd to be asked to wear a facemask on the plane.
I let out a sigh of relief when we reached the boulevard that leads to the resort. Colourful bougainvillea trees and fragrant flowers in bloom were dotted nearby and are very much part of the area’s claim to eternal summers.
When you arrive at a new resort, it’s easy to believe that local life is always perfect and full of pleasure. But after talking with those in charge you quickly learn that nothing good comes without effort.
“When we arrived last year, things were still incomplete. This summer, now social distancing has ended, the Alma has been busy with guests, mostly Vietnamese flying in from Hà Nội and HCM City,” said Vũ Hương Giang, executive assistant manager Food and Beverage.
GREAT EXPANSE: The Alma resort has an Italian, an Asian, and a Garden restaurant, as well as a cool Food Court, but the Atlantis offers a wide space with a sea breeze and a fire show on the weekend featuring Filipino artists from Boracay. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà
After a welcome drink, we headed to lunch at the beach side Atlantis restaurant. A new pirate boat has arrived for young people to check in at, but thinking it may be a little immature for me to do so, I decided against it.
The beach was spectacular in the middle of the day, with the hot sun high above and azure waters and white sand spread out before me, which were peaceful to the eye.
We had crispy prawn crackers with a Nha Trang seafood salad (VNĐ190,000) first off -- a refreshing and tasty appetiser.
Just nearby, Nha Trang provides all of the fresh seafood in the salad -- shrimp, squid, and scallops -- all caught not too long ago. It’s a southern tradition to have salad with crispy prawn crackers, which are so soft the tender teeth of small kids or the elderly can nibble on them.
Next came fresh and tasty spring and summer rolls. The peanut dipping sauce for the summer rolls was so good I asked for more to dip other food in! The thought crossed my mind that if I ever went vegetarian for one or two days a month, all I would need is boiled vegetables dipped in this delightful peanut sauce.
Next came grilled prawns with salted egg yolks in a green chilli sauce (VNĐ390,000), which was delicious and fresh. If you like seafood BBQ, you may prefer this dish cooked on the charcoal grill. The breeze takes some of the heat away if it’s left too long, so be sure not to linger.
FRESH & FAMOUS: Located by the beach, the Atlantis offers a wide range of seafood and highlights of Vietnamese cuisine that are sure to tickle the taste buds. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà
On the charcoal BBQ menu at the Atlantis are scallops, squid, clams, and oysters at prices ranging from VNĐ220,000 to VNĐ700,000. Nha Trang is most famed for its lobsters on Bình Ba Island, with a special Bình Ba BBQ lobster available at Atlantis if you order one day ahead.
Next came stir-fried green Chinese cabbage with mushrooms, which were truly tasty. Vegetables are always a big part of a Vietnamese meal, and the veggie plate is usually the first to be emptied.
Then we had the main course -- caramelised fish stew with white rice, listed under the live seafood section. Prices vary depending on the daily catch, so just check when you order.
White rice with caramelised fish is always a favourite for Vietnamese palates, regardless of the stew, whether in a northern or southern style, or with pineapple, green tea leaves, or just fish sauce and pepper. We complimented the chef’s fish stew and asked for the recipe so we could try and replicate it back home.
Then came the sour fish soup with bean sprouts, okra, pineapple, and tomatoes, and last but not least tamarind to give it that sour touch. This is a typical southern soup that people from all around Việt Nam love.
TASTE OF THE TROPICS: The durian cakes at the Atlantis were loved by our group, though I didn't personally try one. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà
For dessert, we had durian cake, which was nicely presented in the shape of a segment of the fruit. I’m no durian fan, so I skipped it, but others who love it said it was great.
Hương Giang has worked at other properties, including the luxurious Six Sense Ninh Vân Bay, and found that tastes in resorts vary between guests. Though newly opened, the Alma Resort has already welcomed a regular influx of guests flying in from HCM City.
It also caters to private dinners on request. I spoke to the chef and learned that the next day a private birthday party for 16 had ordered a special cake for the celebrations.
FRESH SELECTION: The Saturday BBQ by the beach at the Atlantis is a highlight of the dining experience. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà
A seafood BBQ is available on Saturday nights, with charcoal-grilled Bình Ba lobsters of course, and a fire dance performed by artists from Boracay Island in the Philippines, who absolutely nailed it when we were there.
We watched on in awe, while other guests joined in the fire dance. The only thing holding us back was being a little wary of the live burning balls being tossed all around.VNS