Long overshadowed by its flashier neighbors Malaysia and Thailand, Vietnam is stepping out. Two factors are in its favor: the friendly exchange rate of the local dong against major currencies, and a strong streak of cultural experiences that still runs deep through the country.
Seizing the moment, the Azerai Can Tho has just opened on the edge of Au Island, a 52-acre jade-green paradise on the Hau River, one of the legendary Mekong’s nine tributaries. Inspired by the traditional wooden sampans that ply the local floating markets and the area’s natural greenery, the resort is the handsome second act in hotelier and Aman founder Adrian Zecha’s new hotel brand. It follows last year’s debut in Luang Prabang, opening up a rarely visited part of Vietnam to those looking for a more relaxed experience away from the bustle and buzz of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Architect Pascal Trahan—who also worked on Azerai Luang Prabang—has dotted the resort’s 60 one-bedroom villas along the island’s western shoreline, orienting them toward a river, lake, or garden view. Covered with high-pitched roofs and ringed with spacious verandas, the light and airy interiors are furnished in a quiet palette of neutral hues alongside rustic and tactile materials like rattan and bamboo.
When not lounging by the 100-foot-long swimming pool, exploring the island’s mangrove and banyan forests, or hitting a downward dog in the yoga pavilion, guests can be coaxed out for a dawn excursion to the Cai Rang floating market, where freshly caught river fish, and vegetables and fruit from the local harvest, are traded in the same fashion they have been for centuries.
The cuisine is equally fresh at Azerai Can Tho’s Vietnamese restaurant, where executive chef Sagar Iyer has conceived a classic menu inspired by the region’s abundant natural produce. Iyer serves up grilled meats and seafood; homemade pho soup infused with local basil, lemongrass, and white onions; and chicken curry laced with turmeric and fresh coconut milk—all offered with rice or a baguette.