Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Vietnam Travel: Golden Sand Resort in Hoi An

Cao Lau. Quang Noodles. Won Ton Soup. Scan the menus of Hoi An's eateries and you'll find the same favorite dishes, year after year. The Old Quarter's weather-beaten streets remain largely unchanged, drawing visitors who admire the ancient shop-houses and moss-covered roofs. What has changed is the town's hotel industry. Each year, there are so many newcomers that even the locals have trouble keeping track.

Just five years ago, visitors were happy to stay in three-star hotels. Today, five-star resorts are commonplace. Deserted sandbars have become popular beaches. Lonely shacks where fishermen tarred their boats have given way to beautiful resorts with red tiled roofs and green coconut trees. One impressive newcomer is Golden Sand, which lies on Oriental Beach.

After the sleepy, weathered charm of Hoi An's Tran Phu Street, visitors may find the luxury of Golden Sand's yard and granite-tiled lobby overwhelming. The warm smiles of the doormen will soon put them at ease, however. Built in a European style, the resort has 212 rooms, each of which has a balcony overlooking the sea and the resort's private beach. Guests may enjoy the blue sea and smooth sand, swim in the resort's 150m-long pool - the longest in Central Vietnam - and then retire to luxurious room with its own Jacuzzi tub.

Food, of course, is essential for a good vacation. Golden Sand has a Vietnamese and a Western restaurant. In Addition to traditional local fare like Cao Lau and Won Ton, guests can savor recipes from throughout Vietnam and international favorites.

Those who know Hoi An well may feel surprised by the town's sudden development. Yet much remains to remind us of the old days. tanned girls and boys still frolic in the waves, and coconut palms still flutter over endless stretches of sand. Five hundred years ago, Hoi An was a meeting place for traders from Vietnam, China, Japan and beyond. In the heart of the busy port merchants built the Lai Vien Kieu Bridge. To this day, the bridge stands as a symbol of friendship where visitors pray for love and luck. While much has changed, visitors from around the world still come to Hoi An and are met with charm and hospitality.

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