Vietnam is a country on the rise. Since the mid-80s, a comprehensive suite of political and economic reforms has transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world into what the World Bank enthusiastically hails as a development success story. The proof in the pudding is the gold rush of building projects. Admittedly, the majority is targeted at the foreign spend but that is not to discount the growing corps of middle-to upper-income group whose aspirational goals are on track to turn this region into the coming decade's new China.
Headlining the latest crop of high-profile residential developments is Caye Sereno. Its location in the UNESCO Heritage-listed Halong Bay is flawless with every one of the 18 three to six bedroom-villas featuring panoramic views of water and rocky outcropped islands. The Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan imparts his trademark penchant for massive volumes carved out of concrete slabs that somehow seem to float over the landscape while effortlessly erasing the line between interior and exterior.
'Jonathan Cheng, CEO of the property developer Jen Capital, knew some of our projects,' Kogan says. 'He is a great fan of Brazilian music and architecture and felt a great empathy with our work. The design is a response to the unique site. We were very careful on how to set the houses and preserve everyone's amazing views. Working in one of the most beautiful places in the world frightened me at the beginning.'
The results, however, are fearless while incorporating what Kogan describes as 'a sense of extreme gentleness with the entire surrounding area.' Specifically, the interior spaces are framed in locally sourced material. These flow in a seamless sequence as natural stone masonry and moveable glass walls expand and contract rooms to suit the mood and occasion.
Meanwhile, the enormous bedrooms upstairs are cantilevered out over the living room to create a patio - kitted out with an outdoor grill and kitchenette - that's sheltered from the elements but without sacrificing a whiff of sea-breeze. In turn, this segues into a private infinity pool.
The starting price of $3m includes a gym and yoga studio (with views, of course), tennis court and water activities centre, while a 27-hole golf course is in the works.