Azerai Ke Ga Bay, the new beachfront resort by Adrian Zecha in southeastern Vietnam, sits on one of the country’s most desirable perches overlooking the East Sea. Yet the fabulous ocean views may be upstaged by the property’s remarkable transformation in design and architecture.
The resort, located 180km east of Ho Chi Minh City on a pristine five-kilometer white sand beach, opened in November following the total refurbishment of Princess D’Annam Resort & Spa, a one-time landmark among Vietnamese beachgoers that had been stuck in the doldrums in recent years.
In the development of Azerai Ke Ga Bay, building exteriors were extensively repaired and repainted, while interiors received all-new layouts and finishes, along with updated modern furniture, high-quality furnishings and enhanced lighting. The resort’s 46 guest suites now evoke a stylish aesthetic defined by elegance and clean minimalism, with 10 units boasting either plunge pools or larger private pools.
“We wanted to create a more contemporary and pure design look,” says David Hodkinson, a partner at Noor Design, the Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture and design firm that helped to usher in Azerai Ke Ga Bay.
“One of the key elements was to open up the rather enclosed and insular spaces of the former resort, connecting them to the landscape and surroundings,” he adds.
Steven Scott, Executive Director at Azerai Resorts, says the goal was to replan the interior design, opening areas to more natural light and encouraging seamless indoor-to-outdoor living spaces, both in the guest suites and public areas.
“Architecturally, the resort was well-designed with colonial representation of tropical architecture—lots of soaring high ceilings and clustered buildings which flowed amid the mature landscape. It simply needed someone to look at the place with fresh ideas and bright eyes,” Scott says.
The materials used in the new resort were all locally sourced in Vietnam and feature a notable increase in natural stone and timber, which makes for all sorts of visual warmth. The color palette throughout Azerai Ke Ga Bay is muted, simple and relaxing, encouraging guests to embrace a laid-back, “at-the-beach” mindset.
Other nods toward Vietnamese design, Hodkinson says, include woven rattan and seagrass matting, pebble-wash flooring using local sand and pebbles, paint colors inspired by the rock formations near the region’s iconic lighthouse, and crafts made by local artisans. Traditional Vietnamese architectural details can also be found in the wooden screens in guest suites and at the resort’s restaurant.
“The resort takes design cues from a modernist Vietnamese architectural aesthetic, with clear links to the 50’s and 60’s architecture of Vietnam,” says Hodkinson.
‘Private Garden Living’
Azerai Ke Ga Bay’s generous proportions induce a “luxurious feel,” Hodkinson says. The layout includes four public pools in different areas. Rooms—whether deluxe suites (65sqm) or pool suites (130sqm)—are spacious compared to other resorts in the area.
This spaciousness is one of the property’s many calling cards, says Ketut Bagiartha, the General Manager of Azerai Ke Ga Bay.
“Those of us who live in cities rarely have enough space, be it indoors or outdoors. At Azerai Ke Ga Bay, we have the luxury of almost private garden living, complemented with the exclusive grandeur of the resort’s public areas,” he says.
All guest suites feature sliding glass doors that allow sea breezes or views of the lush gardens, while encouraging natural ventilation.
Indeed, the resort embraces sustainable development in significant ways. A solar farm has been installed on property to generate “green” electricity. All of the air-conditioning systems have been upgraded to more energy-efficient models. And all of the resort’s lighting now incorporates low-energy LED fittings.
Reimagined Public Spaces
The public areas fronting the beach have been replanned. Stairs sweep down past day beds to the pool terrace and a sunken lounge, and the area creates one large area for dining, lounging and leisure. The space offers a high degree of privacy while at the same time providing a sense of intimacy.
“There are many unique features to the resort, but one of my favorites is the connection between the beachfront pool and terraces with the landscape, beach and sea beyond. The open-stepped wall gives an unblocked view out towards the sea, creating a theatre auditorium feeling, with the sea and sky as the stage,” Hodkinson says.
The resort’s four swimming pools were all retiled and wide gradual steps were installed, allowing guests more places to sit and relax in the water. Some of the frangipani trees at the beach pool are more than 50 years old and add to the timeless feel of the resort.
The oceanfront spa, with views over the beach toward the lighthouse, has been completely redesigned, from the 10 private treatment rooms (six single rooms and four double rooms) to individual or shared relaxation lounges and daybeds, a beauty studio, a Jacuzzi, and a gym with the latest cardiovascular and strength-training equipment.
“The spa has been designed as its own entity, with a processional entranceway,” says Hodkinson. “Guests arrive at a small welcome pavilion, from which they walk a frangipani-lined pathway to the main spa building. The materials and colours emanate the surrounding landscape, with a calming water feature placed at the centre.”