By Matt Cowan
Mar 22, 2022
PERHAPS THEY’RE NOT THE most obvious developers for an eco resort in Vietnam (which is now fully open to vaccinated visitors). But when Rod Quinton, a native Aussie, and his Vietnamese wife Nhan decided it was time for a seachange, they packed up their things in Ho Chi Minh City and moved to the coastal fishing and holiday village of Mui Ne about 220 kilometers east.
The only problem was their “things” included four shipping containers, trussing, beams, six big doors, loads of steel, pallets, liquid storage tanks, bamboo, and crowd control barriers – all part of what was once Cargo Bar and Q4, their enormous event space that was a pioneer in Vietnam and had been attached to the then-Saigon Port.
Sadly, with little forewarning, the venue that had hosted bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Regurgitator and the Lemonheads had to close its doors after the lease was suddenly terminated to make way for the redevelopment of the area.
“Luckily for us,” Rod tells me, “Nhan’s family had some land in Mui Ne so we moved everything there and hatched a plan for how we were going to set up the containers as part of a house for us to live in.”
While transplanting everything to the location was one thing, how to position it safely on a sandy hill and keep it protected from the prevailing winds and retain the amazing sea views in the distance was another.
“We decided upon the layout of the containers using Jenga blocks,” says Rod, whose background is in music production and events, not architecture or construction.
Along the way, the project morphed into an environmentally sustainable eco-friendly resort – Cargo Remote, with a nod to both its original purpose and its emigration from Saigon to a less populated part of Vietnam.
The four shipping containers became the core of the complex, housing the main kitchen, dining and bar space with a soaring roof that takes into account those famous Mui Ne winds and a sun that shines year-round offering on average 31°C (87°F) of stunning beach weather.
The result means there is very little, if any, need to use appliances to regulate the temperature throughout the day and into the evening.
Wherever possible, Rod and Nhan have tried to use recycled materials, like old car and truck tires for retaining walls and foundations, the crowd-control barriers are now handrails and deck balustrading, while the bamboo is featured in the bathrooms and on some interior and exterior walls.
Everywhere you look in Cargo Remote there’s something that’s been given a new lease on life, down to the stone and bricks sourced locally from across Vietnam. “We purchased, begged and borrowed a heap of old stuff made from wood, including doors, shutters and other random pieces that you see throughout the property,” Rod explains.
The couple’s ingenuity extends – literally – out of the pavillion towards the green canopy of coconut trees in the foreground and beyond to the sparkling blue waters of the East Sea with a green roof design that provides a stunning space for outdoor dining and events, but at the same time insulates the guest rooms below that have been converted from even more shipping containers.
Cargo Remote has four room types, from 35-square-meter studios with a queen-size bed suitable for two people, to 80-square-meter bungalows that comfortably accommodate four adults and have one queen bed and two single bunk beds.
I stayed in one of the bungalows for three nights and it became a cozy home-away-from-home for the duration owing to its spacious private outdoor terrace where you can lounge about in a converted basket boat gently swinging from the rafters in the breeze or enjoy an intimate dining experience away from other guests.
But I spent the bulk of my time at the resort in or around the Cargo Remote natural pool that really kicks up the place’s eco cred and which, as far as I know, is the only one of its kind in Vietnam. Like the entire property, it was designed by the clever couple with a little bit of help from the internet and bucket loads of patience during many phases of trial and error.
Instead of relying on chemicals like chlorine and a traditional sand filter to keep the pool water healthy, plant root systems actually growing inside the pool, along with natural microorganisms such as daphnia, act as the primary cleaning agents.
Vital to its survival is a series of tanks under the pool deck that provide different filtration solutions, including coral and volcanic rock and even large mesh bags filled with soft-drink bottle caps that attract algae to stick to them. (These are then removed and pressure washed every few weeks.)
Undoubtedly the highlight is that small fish, tadpoles and frogs call the pool home and I soon noticed that if I stayed still for as long as it took to sip my poolside beer, a small army of plucky little fingerlings would zero in under the arches of my feet and between my toes to case out exfoliating opportunities before zigging and zagging away to safety as I prepared to dive into the cool dark waters of the deep end way over my head.
Who needs a foot spa?
Rod and Nhan have plans to further extend their eco resort up the hill, but until then, they’re eagerly awaiting the windswept beaches at the bottom of it to fill up with colorful kitesurfing sails — a telltale sign that Mui Ne is back in business for travel after the pandemic.
cargoremote.com; doubles from US$40
All photos courtesy of Cargo Remote.