Their bed and breakfast, located 3km from Hoi An’s old town market, is set among rice fields and a small farming community a short bicycle ride from Cua Dai Beach on Vietnam’s central coast.
The grandeur on the other side of Heron House’s solid teak gates awaits as you step onto the property for the first time. The house appears much bigger than shown online and commands attention. The plunge pool, just steps from the verandah, tempts even in the chilly early December air. It’s a surprising introduction to what is supposed to be just a bed and breakfast.
Sitting on a 500 sqm plot and at almost 250sqm facing north towards the East Sea, Heron House is a two-story three-bedroom building inspired by the French colonial. While the ocean can’t be seen from here, when the wind blows, you can smell it, letting you know you’re on holiday.
Out of Town
The lane to Heron House is barely the width of a buffalo across. It meanders its way 600m from Cua Dai road through some of Cam Chau commune, past villagers tending gardens, cows grazing on haystacks and chickens scurrying for cover.
At its end, the coconut palms and quaint Vietnamese farmhouses give way to views of rice fields interrupted only by the next commune a kilometre off in the distance. The quiet is broken at times by lowing buffalos, foraging ducks and croaking frogs.
In winter, much of the rice fields are in flood after the monsoon and are being hand-tilled in preparation for next season. Small embankments form mini lakes attracting storks and herons, the bird after which Heron House borrows its name. Rafts of ducks ply the waters and locals can be seen trying their luck at fishing in the shallows.
Inviting you in from Heron House’s landing is the kitchen and living room. Like rural farmhouses the world over, the front doors are always open and the kitchen bench takes centre stage. Here is where your complimentary Western or Vietnamese breakfast is made each morning. And on request, perhaps a Mediterranean salad for lunch, or a Thai curry for dinner.
There are just three rooms at Heron House, one on the ground floor and two on the second. All are named according to the colour of their floor tiles. A room can be booked for around US$120 per night in the off-season, or you can have the whole house for around US$300 per night depending on the season.
There’s no room envy here. The rooms are all the same size (65sqm) and have the same layout with a verandah affording enchanting views, king-size beds, and baths big enough for two.
Yet, there are subtle differences. The green-tiled room is just a skip to the pool, while the rooms above offer greater privacy. The red room is rustic and evokes thoughts of Hoi An’s old town. The building’s high ceilings and windward aspect means there’s no need for air-conditioning.
A guest favourite is the yellow room at the western end of the house on the second floor. Its shuttered doors and windows open out onto the verandah, and frame the setting sun across the rice fields. It captures cooling sea breezes and is best enjoyed with a cocktail from Heron House’s cocktail list. Ask for Loic's pomelo ginger gin made from fresh local ingredients.
Great care is taken to improve guest experiences at Heron House. Loic and Van Anh personally respond to enquiries and bookings and ensure guests are ‘matched’ to minimise disturbances. The staff are unobtrusive, but attentive. After a while, you forget they are there.
Perhaps the irony of a stay at Heron House is that while tourists come to Hoi An in search of an authentic Vietnamese experience in its old town, Heron House guests may discover greater authenticity in Loic and Van Anh’s warm hospitality and the welcoming farming community and its surrounds.
Photos by Mike Palumbo