Unwinding in style at Mango Bay in Vietnam

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Mango Bay Resort, Phu Quoc, VietnamAfter two weeks exploring southern Vietnam, my husband, Jeff, and I were ready for a few days of rest, relaxation and reflection. Nestled in a quiet cove along the western coast of the island of Phu Quoc, Mango Bay Resort was the perfect place to do all of those things. This remote retreat, developed with an eye toward sustaining the local environment, invites guests to immerse themselves in the island's natural beauty.

There is no grand entrance, just a path through dense forest. Upon arrival, we sat back on a comfy couch sipping cold drinks while we were given a brief property overview. We were sitting in the main building, which houses the reception desk, concierge, restaurant and a small Internet room. The resort also features a spa, dive/snorkel center and beach bar. The friendly staff also will arrange an array of mainland and boat tours.

But at that moment, the only tour we were interested in was the one along the sandy path that led to our bungalow so we could change into our swimsuits and unwind.

The low-density resort's 31 rooms and bungalows are spread out amid a lush landscape of natural forest and gardens along a half-mile of shoreline. The Plantation Bungalow we would call home for the next few days imbued an ambience of simple sophistication.

The room's centerpiece was a four-poster bed dressed in creams and whites with a splash of red under a high, thatched ceiling. The spacious, partially covered outdoor bathroom was reminiscent of a tropical garden. The lack of a TV and alarm clock was not an issue. Our wake-up call was the sound of a rooster in the distance and the calls of a roaming herd of brown cows.

The bungalow's large balcony, complete with table, chairs and chaise lounges, was more of an outdoor living area than a porch. This was our favorite spot to kick back with a beer at the end of a busy day collecting sea glass and visiting the property's butterfly farm and gardens.

Our room rate was $125 a night, which included a spectacular ocean view and an impressive breakfast of Western and Vietnamese selections.

A room for every view

Room categories range from the Veranda, which houses five guestrooms with a shared balcony but wonderful ocean views, to bungalows that are ideal for small families. A large group or family can spread out in the Reef House, which has a spacious, outdoor living area; a kitchen; and room for 10 to sleep comfortably. Room rates, starting at $45 a night in the Veranda, vary depending on time of year and room type and are commissionable to agents at 12%.

After watching a breathtaking sunset, we wandered down the sandy path in search of dinner. The restaurant sits along the rocky coast and is open on three sides, so every table has an ocean view. The menu boasts a nice selection of Vietnamese and international fare. Even a simple clay pot dish of tofu, pineapples and mushrooms in a red chili sauce was mouth-watering. A favorite among guests was the tableside barbecue.

On the second and third evenings, we briefly contemplated going elsewhere for dinner, but Phu Quoc isn't known for its restaurant selection. And just relocating from the covered dining area down to the sofas set in the sand along the water's edge under the stars made us feel as if we were in a new venue.

Plus, even when we splurged, we were hard-pressed to spend $40 on dinner for two, including wine and dessert. In fact, affordable indulgence sums up the Mango Bay experience nicely.

Another indulgence difficult to pass up, since it was conveniently situated along the path between our bungalow and the restaurant, was a visit to the spa.

The spa offers massages and basic nail care; however, like the rest of the property, the facilities are understated and environmentally friendly. No fancy pedicure chairs or private massage rooms here, although curtain partitions do allow for privacy.

The only distractions are the view of the sun dancing on the water and the occasional call of a bird or gentle clang of cowbells. The massages certainly helped, but three days here and a year's worth of stress just melted away.

Visit www.mangobayphuquoc.com.

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