We’ve heard the term ‘Indo-Chine’ constantly over the past month in Vietnam but the Victoria Can Tho Resort on the banks of the Hau River, a tributary of the fabled Mekong, gives the term added polish! A small battalion of 30 staff ensure that harlequin-patterned floor tiles gleam, timbers are buffed and glass is crystal clear. The fastidiousness and level of detail is impressive.
Located in the heart of Vietnam’s rice bowl region, the Victoria’s classic French colonial charm, broad verandahs and highly polished appearance make it the Delta’s only 4-star resort and an immaculate place to stay. 1930s posters in the Cuu Long Bar conjure up imagery of another time, of subtle intrigue, privileged luxury and illicit love affairs such as the one Frenchwoman Marguerite Duras had with a handsome Chinese man twice her age that was subsequently made into the 1990 French film L’amant filmed along the Mekong.
En route to the Delta, we stop at Le Longanier, a beautiful villa and restaurant that was once the home of a French businessman but is now part of Victoria Cruises. Greeted by young women wearing gracious traditional ao dai, we work our way through the Jade menu that includes a light, crunchy ‘Elephant Ear’ fish that’s elegantly folded, along with farm-fresh vegetables, into spring rolls at the table.
We’ve become accustomed to a welcoming cool towel and drinks on this trip but a welcome neck and shoulder massage is something new, not that we’re complaining after a 4+ hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Victoria Can Tho Resort has three room styles to chose from – deluxe, superior and suites. On the second floor, ours overlooks the pool, has river glimpses and enough room to work, rest and play. Strolling through the property’s magnificent gardens that meander down to the river, we take the shuttle boat for the 10 minute ride to Can Tho, a small town with a thriving local scene especially as night falls and street food vendors and clothing stalls set-up along side streets.
Back at the Victoria, French chef Bernard Ibanez and his team are preparing an altogether more sophisticated version of Vietnamese street food together with an international menu at Spices restaurant where guests dine-in or under the stars.
But it’s the warm breeze and fish-eye view of life along the Mekong that’s the major draw card and as dawn breaks, we set out for the Cai Rang wholesale floating market a central meeting place for commerce that began around 200 years ago. Cash may have replaced the barter system but the pace of trade is as busy as ever as boats jostle for position. Here, everyone’s a specialist with this one selling bags of onions, another’s hold is filled with watermelons or pineapples; taro or pumpkin. How can we tell? From the sample dangling from a long bamboo pole in the stern. A boat laden with durian needs no advertising – it’s aroma precedes it. The favourite food of orang-utans, no wonder they’re solitary animals!
Getting there is made easy by Victoria who run an exclusive coach service from Ho Chi Minh City offering lunch at Le Longanier restaurant and Mekong boat trips. Reserve your seats and overnight accommodation on www.victoriahotels.asia
2onthewing customised its itinerary to Vietnam with www.asiaunbound.com