MAGIC ON THE MEKONG

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Published on November 02, 2019 with No Comments

Azerai Can Tho makes the perfect base to explore the Mekong Delta.

Words ANIS RAMLI

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If only the banyan trees could talk, what would they say? Soaring high over Azerai Can Tho, the trees are the focal point as guests wander around the expansive grounds of Au islet (Con Au) on which they have presided over 100 years. Word has it that long before Azerai took pride of place, the islet was once home to a chestnut farm and a family amusement park replete with alligators!

Today, though no remnants of the past could be seen, the islet has begun to attract a new kind of crowd. Opened last year, Azerai Can Tho has steadily woven its own narrative among locals and visitors, promising to create a haven of serenity to those looking for some Mekong magic.

Azerai is the new hospitality brand by legendary hotelier Adrian Zecha. Those familiar with Mr Zecha would instantly recognise his name as the founder of, among others, the famed Aman resort. His Midas touch is legendary among the hospitality circle, especially in re-defining luxury and connecting guests with the ultimate experience in hospitality.

Azerai Can Tho is his first venture into a brand that sees him providing the same understated luxury of Aman, yet in many ways, it’s a brand that appears set to create its own standards of hospitality. The minimalist look underscores a richness that is unassuming. Its expansive grounds with the buildings spread out create a sense of freedom and wild contentment; a moment of peace from Can Tho’s bustling city that ironically is just a five-minute boat ride away.

Warm wood accents the resort’s architecture, a streamlined look that invites quiet contemplation. Nuances of local culture peek out from the ceiling, whether to highlight the intricate woodwork of local craftsmanship or draw the eye to artisanal pieces of lampshades and more. The rooms are equally simple in design; connecting doors giving option for families to travel together. Similar in size, the only difference is the type, whether facing the pond, the garden or the River Hau (best for privacy).

The resort’s centrepiece is the 31-metre pool that separates the main restaurant and the lounge bar. It is here that guests are likely to spend their time, doing everything or nothing at all. “We rarely get guests who, once they check in, leave the resort – although our shuttle boat is available 24 hours of the day,” says Vuko Kralj, the resort’s general manager. “So what we hope to do next is invite perhaps local craftsmen and artisans to the grounds so we can create a resort that is an extension of the local culture.” This could see activities rammed up in the resort such as cooking and crafts classes, as an example.

The spa, however, could be seen as a teaser of how big things can be at the property. The menu highlights a variety of Vietnamese offerings, including scrubs and body treatments that use local rice and almond oil, to name a few. Massages run the spectrum of treatments inspired by and drawn from Vietnamese techniques as well as those from Southeast Asia. What was fun was the three different shower rooms that appear to celebrate the water culture of the region: one equipped with a wooden bucket shower, another offering rainwater style yet another offered a gentle mist spray shower.

Exploring the Mekong from Azerai as base is easy. Working with Can Tho River Cruise, guests can explore the Delta and its surrounds to discover what makes the area historic. There are options to visit the famed Can Tho Floating Market. Unlike the river markets in Thailand that are usually for locals and tourists, this market is a working wholesale market with goods that travel on boats from deeper parts of the delta. Each boat hosts its sample of goods – watermelon, pumpkin, pineapple – on a long bamboo pole so that potential customers can easily identify their boat. With more markets now mushrooming on land, the number of boats has lessened, and soon sights like these will disappear altogether.

But, as my guide John pointed out, there is more to the Delta than the floating markets. “People seldom visit the rural areas where there are opportunities to explore the abundant fruit farms, do some fishing and go on a cycling tour of areas that are often overlooked.”This, he says, is the best way to discover the authentic and rustic beauty of the local landscape and meet its people.

Back at Azerai, works are on-going to put the finishing touches to its new collection of three-, four- and five-bedroom villas to complement the resort’s 60-room lodging. The same detailed craftsmanship can be seen in the interiors with stone, slate, rattan and light-coloured wood accenting the décor, rounding up the sleek and minimalistic design. Each villa has a private pool, a dining room and a full-fledged kitchen with the option for a dedicated on-call chef. With its emphasis on privacy, the villas will certainly appeal to families or groups looking for quality getaway.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Ho Chi Minh City 4x weekly for easy connections to Can Tho. Discover things to do in Can Tho in www.muhibah.com.bn

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