Spread over an islet on the Hau River, zen-inducing retreat Azerai Can Tho chimes perfectly with its surroundings: a lotus-flecked lake and lush gardens dotted with banyan trees. Separated from Can Tho by the river, this leafy idyll is removed from the urban bustle – though a boat can ferry you to the city in minutes, where lively markets, sizzling street food and gilded pagodas await. Flaunting verdant views and spacious bathrooms, the rooms are dressed in auburn wood and finished with slate grey fabrics, giving them a modern, minimalist look inspired by traditional Mekong design. If you’re the adventurous type, spend your days exploring the delta before returning to dinners of flame-grilled fish and spiced wagyu beef at the Grill; if you’re more interested in downtime, hit the riverside tennis court, sip cocktails in the poolside bar or sample the stress-busting power of a hot-stone massage.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £213.96 (VND6,715,482), including tax at 15.5 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast, which is US$20 a person (plus service charges and tax). It’s a flat fee, giving you free reign of the buffet and à la carte menu, which includes Vietnamese dishes and Western options like pancakes and pastries.
If the hotel’s sleek and restrained design seems oddly familiar, it might have something to do with the fact that Azerai is the brainchild of Adrian Zecha, the founder of Aman.
At the hotel
Spa; tennis court; gym; hair salon; kids’ club with indoor and outdoor play areas; lush gardens; free WiFi throughout; laundry. In rooms: flatscreen TV; minibar; tea and coffee; free bottled water; air-conditioning and Elemis bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The three room types are the same on the inside – the only things that change are the views. River Rooms make up the top tier, commanding sweeping views over the Bassac River, a tributary of the Mekong. If you’re not looking to splash, the Lake and Garden Rooms aren’t much of a compromise, overlooking the Lotus-topped lake and tropical gardens respectively.
The 31-metre pool is at the heart of the resort – and it deserves to be pride of place. Two-tone tiles trace a geometric pattern beneath the water, and taupe sunloungers line the terrace around the outsides, giving sunbathers a view across the gardens and lake. An open sided pavilion sits at each end – one is home to the Café, a casual, all-day eatery serving light Vietnamese dishes, the other is a cocktail bar. The pool’s very family-friendly, too, with a clearly marked shallow end and a lifeguard keeping an eye on things from 8.30am to 4.30pm daily.
The spa building runs along the side of the canal, shaded by the canopies of banyan trees. There’s a sauna, hammam, several ice therapy fountains and eight treatment rooms, two of which are for couples. A team of skilled therapists provides a range of massages, body scrubs and hand-and-foot therapies, many of which draw on ancient Vietnamese healing techniques. The oils and scrubs are made with local products like Mekong rice, almond oil and coffee, showcasing the richness of the Mekong delta. You can join a free yoga class on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, or work up a sweat in the state-of-the-art gym, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river.
It’s worth bringing your good camera to capture the whirl of colour at the floating markets.
All the public areas are on the ground floor and are wheelchair accessible, but there are no specially adapted rooms.
All ages are very welcome. There’s a dedicated kids club with indoor and outdoor play areas, shady gardens for running about and a paddling pool for little Smiths to splash about in. Babysitting is available for US$20 an hour; four hours’ notice is needed
At the Café, aim for one of the tables on the terrace overlooking the pool. At the Grill, nab one by the windows, where you’ll be able to see the banyan trees in all their floodlit glory.
There's no need to stand on ceremony at the Café – just bring something to wear over your swimwear. The Grill is a smarter affair – a dress for Mrs Smith, a crisp shirt and white trousers for Mr Smith.
All-day restaurant the Café is in a wooden pavilion by the pool. Styled with the hotel’s signature restraint, it has a pitched timber ceiling, patterned tiles on the floor and simple mid-century furnishings. It’s a casual affair, particularly during the daytime, when you need only slip a layer over your swimwear before taking a seat on the shady terrace. The menu is full of regional comfort dishes, with plenty of fresh salads and and homemade desserts to keep things cool during the day. Open for dinner, the Grill is centered around a gleaming open kitchen where the chefs sear prime cuts of meat, fresh fish and prawns over the flames, preparing them in Vietnamese and French-style dishes. There are plenty option for vegetarians too, however, and all the salads are made with organic produce that’s grown locally.
The Lounge and Bar is an open-sided pavilion by the pool, on the opposite side from the Café. Its inviting lounge chairs and soft sofas make it the spot to shelter from the sun as you sample some of the cooling confection, which range from freshly squeezed juices and mocktails to craft beers and international wines.
The Café serves breakfast from 6.30am to 11am; lunch from 11.30am to 4.30pm; dinner from 6pm to 10.30pm. The Grill is open for dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm. The Lounge and Bar are open from 11am to 11pm.
You can order anything on the menu during restaurant hours. There’s reduced selection after dark.
Land Parcel No.4, Map No.44
Au Islet Eco-tourism Urban Area
Hung Phu Ward, Cai Rang District
The hotel is on a small island on the Hau River, a tributary of the Mekong. It takes about 10 minutes to get to Can Tho’s port by boat.
The closest airport is Can Tho, a 30-minute drive away. It can be reached directly from Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. If you’re coming from abroad or starting your trip in the south, you might be better off flying to Ho Chi Minh City Airport, which can be reached directly from London, Paris and other European hubs. It takes around four hours to drive from there to the hotel; private, one-way transfers can be organised for US$185 (including tax and service charge) for a car, or US$200 for a van.
You won’t need a car to explore Can Tho. You’ll be arriving at the dock by boat, and it’s easy to enlist tuk-tuks and taxis if you’d prefer not to walk.
Worth getting out of bed for
Bustling and vibrant, Can Tho is a sensory treat – but you could just as easily spend a day or two camped out on the island without getting bored. You can improve your game on the riverside tennis court, reach for higher plains in the yoga studio or connect with ancient healing traditions in the spa. If you’ve brought a book with you, the edge of the lake is just the place to lose yourself for a few hours. Nearby Phong Dien floating market is among the biggest in the country, and is a world away from your usual supermarket run. Things get going at the crack of dawn, when locals arrive to get the pick of the fresh produce, so it’ll be worth the early start if you want to see things in full swing. You’ll find almost everything you’d need for a life on the river, with traders peddling everything from canoes to fresh pineapples. In Can Tho, don’t miss the Pitu Khosa Rangsay Pagoda, one of the most important places of worship in the Mekong delta. The three-tiered building has a gilded spire and is covered in typically Khmer artwork, including dragons, snakes and carvings of the bird god Garuda. The hotel can also organise walking and biking tours along the delta’s backwaters, which pass by riverside communities with orchards, rice noodle workshops and cacao farms. If you’re in the mood for a day trip, visit Bang Lang Stork Sanctuary, home to vast numbers of storks who thrive among the mangroves, rice paddies and thick foliage of this private nature reserve. The journey takes about an hour by boat, and it’s worth setting off early to reach the sanctuary by 6am, when the storks go foraging for food.
Head to Hop Pho for classic Vietnamese fare – in particular the bowls of thick, hearty pho, best enjoyed under the shade of the tall palms outside. Or, if you’re just looking for a place to take a breather, their iced coffee is some of the best in town. For a casual lunch, try Tomato, an open-fronted restaurant that specialises in fragrant pad Thai. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the simple look belies the quality of the cooking. As dusk falls, settle with a gin and tonic on the terrace of L’Escale, a fourth-floor French restaurant with sweeping river views. It’s one of the more refined spots in town – something that makes itself known in the attentiveness of the service and the chef’s precision. Many Gallic classics are on the menu, including onion soup, foie gras, perfectly seared steaks and roasted duck breast. There’s an excellent selection of wines to pair with, and crème brûlée and chocolate fondants if you’ve got room for dessert.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this zen-inducing hotel in Vietnam and unpacked their rosewood jewellery box from the hotel’s boutique, a full account of their riverside break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Azerai Can Tho in Vietnam…
The cliché ‘an oasis of calm’ gets tossed around a little too lightly in the travel business. But once in a blue moon, a hotel arrives on the scene where it applies almost literally – and Azerai Can Tho is one of them. Built on an island in the middle of Vietnam’s Hau River, this resort can only be reached by boat, putting it at a remove from the outside world. With its gardens of banyan trees and glassy lake that mirrors the sunset, you’d never guess you were within swimming distance of the largest city in the Mekong Delta. The rooms make the most of this placid world, clad in warm-toned wood and furnished with simple mid-century style. The restrained design scheme has a distinct decluttering effect – in part because it works in tandem with the view, on show in grand proportions from the private terrace attached to every room. In short, the hotel’s the perfect counterpart to a day spent in the thriving city, or a morning immersed in the organised chaos of the floating markets, thronged with boats piled with mangos, fishing nets and everything in between.