You can usually judge a place on the quality of its bathrobes. Your average city hotel trafficks in waffle-weaved cotton, not particularly luxurious but good for the moderate climate of your temperature-controlled room.


The more upmarket, boutique-style hotels go the microfibre route — lightweight yet plush and warm, with strands thinner than silk.


Ana Mandara goes the microfibre route — not solely out of luxurious pretensions, but also because it gets chilly in its villa rooms. Especially at night. This straddle of authenticity is what so many resort hotels try to do, but so often get wrong. It’s not easy to be part of a place and still insulate against its inconveniences.


Built on nearly 100 years of history, Ana Mandara’s strength is its authenticity. When the original management company, Six Senses, started on the eight years of rehabilitation necessary to get the resort into opening day shape in 2006 “it was really badly damaged”, says tour supervisor Nguyen Van Tan. “They did a lot of renovations... Before, if you see the pictures, it was really in bad condition.”



With 14 of the 17 villas onsite dating from the 1920s village they were originally part of, the grandeur of the bygone era surrounds you, swallows you whole. But that doesn’t mean you can’t choose between 12 different types of scented pillows. You can.


The Romantic Present


Now managed by Emeralda, Ana Mandara’s 71 separate accommodations — many with functioniong fireplaces — sit at an elevation of 1,500 metres above sea level, nestled on the edge of the city in Dalat’s western highlands. It has a spa and cosy central restaurant, where many of the guests seem to gravitate during their stays. A classic Citroën sits in the front lot, ready to chug its way to the most picturesque sites in the city. Each of the villas is distinct — not only in terms of the level of accommodation they provide, but in architecture and layout.



By the entrance, a crumbling gate greets people — though newly constructed, it feels like one of the oldest features of the resort. The Fromagerie Maître Pierre, now just letters painted over a vacant garage, is what remains of a failed attempt to start a French cheese making shop three years ago. The oldest-looking things at Ana Mandara are actually quite new.


As far as the exact history that surrounds guests at every turn, no-one seems to know — although some villas hold nonspecific titles like ‘The Archaelogist’s Villa’ and ‘The Scientist’s Villa’. And maybe that’s for the best. Ana Mandara is villa culture with upkept paint, and it doesn’t so much embrace Dalat’s romantic past as find a way to align it with the present. — Ed Weinberg


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