I was headed to Mui Ne on a road trip when a few friends asked us to join them for a night at a place called Cao Minh. The idea was to go camping and light up a barbecue at this self-styled ‘eco resort’ just over an hour from central Ho Chi Minh City. The only problem? We didn’t have any tents. Not that it mattered so much. It was just a question of authenticity.
What we discovered felt like a forgotten oasis — run-down, under-maintained yet eerily beautiful. Our guess was that the owner — a well-known singer who gave his name to the resort — had not created the cash cow he had hoped for. So he took his finger off the pulse and rather than investing, kept the place running at a minimum cost.
A Failed Paradise?
Operating Cao Minh on a budget means that all the lofty constructions — the swimming pools, jet skis and zip lines — have gone unused. The place even has a castle-like structure, suspension bridges and a waterfall. Once upon a time the ideas may have been sound. Perhaps they just weren’t executed properly. Yet the fact so much was not working was part of the charm.
Due to our friends’ preferences, we ditched the idea of renting tents and ended up in a cabin that housed 10 people — it only cost around VND1 million. And while food and drink is sold on-site, we ended up bringing our own. It was cheaper and more fun, and being on a budget, it made a bit more sense.
Back to that cabin. The accommodation is basic. Forget aircon — this place is fan-cooled and at night, you’ll be sitting outdoors in the open air. So mosquito coils are a must. Surrounded by trees and water, after dark Cao Minh provides a sense of countryside isolation that makes it a perfect, if slightly run-down, getaway from the city.
Daytime here is different. People from all around seem to descend on the resort. Fortunately it’s never too crowded, never too full of other people to intrude on your privacy.
When we left I had one regret. I wish we had rented or brought some tents. It would have added to the experience. I also found myself thinking that with around US$100,000 (VND2.2 billion) worth of investment, you could make the place work again and return it to its former glory. It’s a nice thought.
Khu Du Lich Sinh Thai Cao Minh is at 547 Ap 2, Xa Vinh Tan, Vinh Cuu, Dong Nai. For further info call 0914 189121 or click on dulichcaominh.com. The resort is located to the northeast of Bien Hoa, close to Tri An Lake. To get there go down Highway 1A north out of Ho Chi Minh City and go through Bien Hoa. Turn left at Nga Ba Tri An (Tri An Junction) onto TL767. Follow the road for about 12km. Cao Minh is on the right hand side.