For Americans of a certain age, the Mekong Delta is not a place readily associated with tranquil vacations. Nearly 16,000 square miles of wetland, it is a semi-wilderness of swamps, canals, islands and paddy fields that extend southwest for 200 miles from the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to the Cambodian border. During the Vietnam War it was a place of incessant, bloody conflict between Viet Cong guerrillas and men aboard the speedboats and helicopter gunships of the U.S. Navy and Marines. But today the delta is peaceful once more, a shimmering landscape decked out in a thousand shades of green, where farmers can harvest three rice crops a year from the rich alluvial soil.
Can Tho, the capital of the delta, is a city of around 1.5 million inhabitants situated on the Hau River, one of the nine major channels into which the Mekong River divides. Traditionally, it was the delta’s entrepôt, and even now it is famous for its floating markets, where farmers from far afield bring their agricultural produce — pineapples, melons, garlic, radishes — to sell or exchange. Rice milling remains the principal industry.
Azerai Can Tho
As well as an inclination to see a little of the delta, our trip to Can Tho had been motivated by a desire to stay at Azerai Can Tho, the latest venture by Adrian Zecha, the founder of Aman Resorts, which opened in June. Even at the age of 86, Zecha continues to inspire fascination among travel cognoscenti, most of whom accord him near mythical status as the world’s most talented hotelier of the past 30 years.