I'm torn in my review of Ana Mandara, but I have decided to be honest - there were some very high points of the stay, but there were some areas that the hotel will have to improve on. I have given my detailed comments to Mr. Vo, the deputy Manager of the place, some of which, I'll reproduce here.
I was looking for a perfect stay for my 27th birthday which I planned to celebrate with my family in Dalat. It finally boiled down between Ana Mandara and another hotel, but Ana Mandara won because of their concept - and even after the stay, I'm still won over.
Concept (6/5 stars)
Step into a time wrap people: The Villas in Ana Mandara were built between the 1920s and 1930s (some of them looked like 1950s) by the French colonial masters. After the French got booted out, the local government seized the property and choked them with local Dalat people. In 2004, the hotel acquired the Villas and in 2006, the Ana Mandara opened for business!
Some reviewers have talked about the "run-down" ness of the property - rustic my dear friends, rustic. IF they had repaired and made everything new, it would have LOST its old world charm. Everything in the rooms are definitely new, but for the exterior of the houses, the worn concrete railings and the slightly blacken roof tiles (which their French names on them) - that gives it the feel!
(Think of all those restored shop houses in Singapore! Too new looking and too gaudy I would say!)
Five years on, Ana Mandara has hosted weddings (up to 120 guest) and a Corporate Event by a huge beer company (of 180 people). Other smaller scale Corporate events by companies/departments of 30 plus people. They have villas that can convert into conference and meeting rooms. Definitely a 5 star luxury retreat!
The Positive Points:
The atmosphere of the whole place, family spent an entire evening simply strolling around and checking out each individual villas. Mind you, IF you are going as a big group, want several rooms and want to stay in the SAME VILLA, please write to Ana Mandara. There are different kinds of rooms in each Villa, e.g. La Petite, Villa Room, Villa Studio, Villa Suite, Spa Villa, La Villa and Belluvila Room. We stayed in Villa 7 in on the first night and it consists of a La Petite Room and 2 Villa Suites. (The Villa Suite on the first floor is like a 20 second walk over to the pool.)
We then stayed at Villa 11 on the next two nights that consist of 2 Villa Rooms, 1 Villa Suite and their uber-big Belluvilla Room! So my drift is to ask first before booking! We have asked if they could put the layout of each villa on their website, but they couldn't because it would take up too much bandwidth.
Other information: Spa Villa 16 is the closest to the gym (just a 10 second foot path walk away from the gym). Villa 11 is the closest to the Restaurant. Out of the Villan and you're there.
The Food (5/5 stars...but depending on who is cooking)
Top notch...but when cooked by the master chef and served by the captain of the waitress, Thoung. When we ate on the first night, it was simply - perfect. the atmosphere and decor of the restaurant and the superb service of Thoung. The food was good and we ordered hot pot. Thoung personally cooked and served us for every bowl we got from the hotpot.
Breakfast was delightful - as there weren't that many guest, it was an ala carte buffet, and trust me, YOU WOULD WANT THE ALA CARTE BUFFET. (Heh). For one, the varieties on the Ala Carte Buffet is more than the actual buffet. 2) Their service (more like Thoung's service) was impeccable.
Mr. Vo: I'm writing the below because I'm confident that the hotel will be able to up its standard and future reviewers will not find similar problems.
However, breakfast on my birthday itself spoke of inexperience. i) The food dramatically dropped in standard. (We figured that the master chef was off duty) ii) Thoung was no where to be found (she was on off as well). The waitress taking our orders was obviously a trainee. Not only was our orders mixed up, however, one glaring note was her inexperience to particular sensitivities of the customers.
Yes, to most of you out there, saying Grace in public over a meal is probably unheard of, too conservative (except you people from the Bible Belt and South) and unnerving. Well, over in Asia, i.e. Singapore, actually it's pretty common.
So we were saying Grace when the waitress who probably never seen anyone say Grace in her entire life innocently went "I will repeat your orders". Interrupted - I went, "We are saying Grace, in a moment please". Which she then went on to REPEAT the orders. Mind you, we had our heads bowed, eyes closed and Dad was saying Grace in a very audible manner. Dad had to be interrupted to tell the waitress that everything is ok to shoo her away. In comparison, when we were in Saigon in a upmarket French Restaurant called La Villa, we heard a waitress say something, she realising that we were engaged and then quietly going away till we were done.
As a rule of thumb: If the customers are very deeply engaged in something, most likely they would not want to be interrupted for something like the repeat of the order. While this is important as well (you don't want wrong orders) sensitiveness is needed. I'm pretty sure that Thuong would have been more self-aware. As I said, the waitress was probably a trainee. But after that, everything went down hill (i.e. music asked to be turned off had its volume increased and we had to repeat ourselves), but we saw the lighter side of the problem and laughed it off.
Breakfast on the third day was buffet style (the hotel had a huge group of guest the night before) and the food was not as good as the first day but definitely better than the second. We had feed backed this to Mr. Vo and he said that he would definitely look into this.
For the standard housekeeping stuff, they help you fold clothes that are strewn around. However, we noted that a cockroach (yes sigh, they have them there even in cold Dalat) that we smashed against the wall was not removed by the housekeeper and we had to personally instruct the housekeeper to remove it before they did so. Dad noticed that dead bugs in the room was not cleaned out either.
Housekeeping protocol is that all taps have to be run before the guest goes in. Admittedly, housekeeping probably didn't have the time to get ready the room when we shifted from Villa 7 to Villa 11, but being greeted by a stream of brown water (probably rust) wasn't very pleasant although water was ok after that.
Same to do with the keys. I would suggest that the hotel actually do a run and make sure that all keys are unable to unlock the door (wrong keys twice). A small minor inconvenience. But one that would not leave a good impression and would be a nightmare in a corporate event. (Sister dryly suggested a corporate bonding game called, "Find the Villa matching your key").
One of our bath tubs leaked when filled to the brim (in Villa 7) and the shower drained really slowly in the other room in Villa 7. But no such problems in Villa 11.
Sleep Quality (6/5 stars)
One of the most impressive things of Ana Mandara is that they have a pillow menu! You can basically order ANY type of pillow to sleep on. They would also scent your pillow at night. They would lower your mosquito nets. They didn't quite understand what it meant by "please lower down only one net" for a twin sharing room (they didn't lower any). The chocolate by your bedside every night was great too!
However, as the hotel is just outside a neighbourhood, you get the problems with such situation where there was a loud Karaoke session audible from Villa 7 on the first night. But at least it ended soon enough.
Special Occasion (6/5 stars, Butler Service)
The Butler Service is a touch of class. Of course your Butler will not be with you through the day, but she or he will be at your back and call, just call.
We had a butler called Tiwary Linh who was really good. As it was my birthday, she was very observant to note my movements. When I came back in early afternoon, I was greeted with a “Happy Birthday”. I headed to the gym and once I was heading to the shower, they had prepared the table in the Villa’s living room and brought a cake up to my room! Very well done and certainly a surprise as I wasn’t expecting any celebrations because Ana Mandara did not give any info on this when I earlier emailed them!
Also when we were changing Villas and needed Linh to show us around, not only did she fill us with the history of the place, she was very knowledgeable and helpful with her suggestions.
The Lovely Complimentary Upgrade (6/5 stars)
When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised when they upgraded one of our La Petite rooms to a Villa Suite. Mind you people, don’t you go there and start demanding that they upgrade you room! One thing was probably because it was off-season and there were rooms to spare. But more importantly, we had requested at reception that we wanted the rooms on the same level, in the same villa and twin sharing for one (which I was sharing with my sister). They did all that splendidly.
But being that my parents got the La Petite room (their most basic room) while sis and I got the very luxurious Villa Suite, we didn’t feel that it was right and asked for an upgrade. We were willing to pay of course. They gave us two suggestions, either to two adjoining Villa Rooms or two Villa Suites that were on the same floor. We ended up taking the Villa Rooms. I have to say, all the upgrades were complimentary, although we were very much willing to pay for our upgrade to the Villa Rooms. But Ana Mandara does take note of your requirements and strives to fulfil them.
Gym is very new (probably because no one uses it) and I’ve given some suggestions on mirror and towels needed.
The heated pool is an absolute delight. They have towels prepared on all deck chairs too!
At the end of the day, I have to say that for the concept and the food, Ana Mandara is a steal!
For you Singaporeans: Checking out internet booking, a La Petit room goes for Singapore Dollar $119.72 a night (tax inclusive). That means it’s $59.86 per person a night. I would dare to say that the breakfast in the morning, the service, the quality and the ambience is as good or better than “House” at Demsey, or “Spruce” at Tanglin. While these brunch places do not have a buffet, you’ll probably have to pay something close to Singapore $40 if they did. If you take that away from the cost per night, you’re really paying $19.86 for a night in a 5 star resort, with 6 star service and with 6 star facilities.
Don’t miss this opportunity.
- Also Known As:
- Ana Mandara Villas Dalat Hotel Dalat
- Ana Mandara Villas Dalat Hotel
- Ana Mandara Villas Dalat Resort And Spa
- Ana Mandara Hotel Dalat
- Ana Mandara Resort Dalat
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The 70 room resort, restaurant and spa set in the rural highlands of Dalat, Vietnam comprises seventeen fully restored French colonial villas each originally constructed between the 1920's and 1930's. The villas retain the unique personalities of their original owners while being lovingly restored to their former glory, with all care taken to preserve original design, decor and charm. Of the seventeen villas on site, fifteen have been converted into fully serviced hotel accommodations with the remaining two villas being converted into our Restaurant and Six Senses Spa, respectively. ... more less
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