Best hotels in Vietnam: Azerai Can Tho is where you go for too much rest and relaxation

Azerai Can Tho

Located in a lesser-known part of Vietnam, Azerai Can Tho is a true getaway in that it’s hard to get to and hard to get out of

Editor’s note: See other Escape Plan stories here.

Before this article starts as, and then descends further into a philosophical treatise on the hospitality industry in general, let me assure everyone that the Azerai Can Tho is a quite delightful resort. On an exclusive private islet in the Mekong Delta, it’s a non-lunar tranquillity base that has relaxation at the very core of its being. It’s also an interesting experiment in that it seems to be oriented towards an under-represented/catered to market.

Evolved by Adrian Zecha, a peerless hotelier in his own right and the man who evolved and then helmed Aman Resorts for many years, the Azerai ‘chain’ – there are but three currently – is intended to be what I can only refer to as ‘Aman Lite’. The guest demographic is as different as the price point, which makes the venture bold, exciting and risky in equal measure. Azerai resorts are catering to a slightly younger, less well-heeled crowd who want much of the Aman experience without having to pay for it all. 

Azerai Can Tho
An aerial view of the resort with Can Tho city on the opposite shore

This sounds slightly negative, and it’s not meant to be. The Azerai Can Tho has identified its ideal market and is a wonderful example of a well thought-out and assiduously thought-through resort – particularly in terms of layout and design. It has so much to offer to the smart traveller who appreciates a sense of place and is prepared to go to some lengths to experience it. 

Because the Azerai Can Tho isn’t easy to get to. It’s a two and a half to three-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City, or a 15-minute flight from an airport no one knows about. 

The islet itself, upon which the resort is situated, can only be accessed via boat (this is not as obvious as it sounds; there are structures such as bridges, but not in this case). While this feature creates a wonderful feeling of seclusion and exclusivity, it also becomes a problem when guests run out of things to do. For those not simply wanting to make like a vegetable, and for others who would like to imbibe the culture on a less well-trodden Vietnamese pathway, there isn’t a great deal on. This presents part of the problem that this young resort needs to address. 

Azerai Can Tho
The resort takes pride in using local build materials

Without anthropomorphising too much, the Azerai Can Tho doesn’t quite know what it wants to, or perhaps what it should, be. Admittedly in its formative years, there is a certain lack of identity that makes it difficult to categorise – this is not necessarily a bad thing – but also slightly problematic to approach and market. 

If it’s simply a place to chill, then all might be well and good – if guests are prepared to go the extra (quite a few) miles. If it’s intended to be an integral part of the Vietnam cultural experience, then work needs to be done. 

Getting off the island and alighting in Can Tho City is an escape hardly worth making. Vietnam’s fourth largest conurbation (population 1.2 million) doesn’t offer much save for a few mediocre restaurants and some bright, irrelevant lights – they promise something and provide nothing interesting – and a ‘night market’ that promises nothing and delivers on every front.

Azerai Can Tho
The resort is configured around the pool area and the lily-decked pond

This is why guests should stay ‘at home’ and enjoy a resort that, while still finding itself and its feet, has enormous potential. The accommodation at entry level is exactly what you might expect from the Aman Lite experience – minimalist; light-earth tones; a studied elegance with a nod to local styles and iconography, and a simplicity that is good for the soul. 

The pool area and neighbourhood lily-decked pond, around which the resort is configured, are beautifully landscaped for a natural vibe and lovely to walk around or chill by. While there are only two restaurants at the resort, there are many options in terms of cuisines – as you would expect from a destination that simply doesn’t know where its next booking is coming from. This is especially true during and immediately after the worst ravages of the pandemic, during which marketing plans went out of the window and everybody took whatever and whoever they could get.  

Azerai Can Tho
Open all day, the Lounge & Bar is where guests go for light bites between meals and pre-dinner aperitifs

Alongside some redoubtable international/western dishes, authentic Vietnamese offerings are to be had, including signature local breakfasts that are excellent in every respect. The second (more laid back) dining outlet is the place to convene for afternoon tea and cakes, overlooking the pool and examining the splendid, resident, mature banyan trees. It’s the place to bask, reflectively, in an ambience that almost impels relaxation. 

Azerai Can Tho
All rooms at Azerai Can Tho enjoy views of either the lake, river, or gardens

While the individual villas don’t really inspire in terms of the accommodation and accoutrements, the three and four-bedroom options most certainly do. Boasting extensive, lush gardens and swimming pools that you can actually exercise in, the décor exudes that familiar, spare and simple elegance that bears Adrian Zecha and his team’s hallmark. I would describe it as understated gorgeousness, if that’s not too confusing or oxymoronic. 

In the case of the Azerai Can Tho, the journey and the destination may be of equal importance in the curation of a visit and stay. It’s clear that there is a market out there for the kind of people the resort wants to bring in, but only time will tell whether such travellers will vote with their feet and experience a rare and quite special place. 

Azerai Can Tho