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The Indochinese History Behind Phú Quoc’s Famous La Veranda Resort

Vibrant red and yellow heliconias sway as you walk a brick maze that feels more like a tropical rainforest than hotel grounds. But that’s just one of Catherine Gerbert’s touches, or Madame Catherine as she’s affectionately called at La Veranda Resort (@laverandaresortphuquoc) in Phú Quốc, Vietnam.

Opened in 2006, La Veranda Resort was the first five-star resort on the island, and today is an MGallery by Accor property. Originally built as Gerbert’s seaside retirement home, the island is also the start of her family’s illustrious story.

Gerbert’s great-grandmother was a fish sauce producer on Phú Quốc before moving her enterprise to Phnôm Pênh, Cambodia, to avoid the stiff local competition. Her great-grandmother was later interned and died during the Japanese occupation of Cambodia during WWII.

After the war, Gerbert’s grandmother and her French husband sold the family business and built a luxurious French colonial villa in Cambodia. Gerbert grew up a socialite who spent weekends dancing and drinking with royalty. When the Khmer Rouge started to gain power in the 1960s, she fled to travel the world before eventually settling in Hong Kong.

But it was Gerbert’s family roots and fond childhood memories of French Indochina that inspired her to build a home and garden in Phú Quốc. “In the colonial era, a mansion with lush gardens was common in Indochina, and she wanted to create that,” says Enzo Lepolard, Guest Experience Manager at La Veranda Resort.

Each of the property’s 74 rooms has details picked out by Gerbert, from the welcome drinks featuring a local Sim berry wine she loves, to the elephant lamps on the walls. The tiles in Le Bar and The Pepper Tree restaurant (formerly the main house built for Gerbert) are from the same factory that made the tiles in her parents’ Cambodian homes.

The bespoke rooms have plush four-poster beds, colorful French colonial tiles, plantation shutters and stunning views of the gardens or Phú Quốc’s Long Beach. After spending a few days falling asleep to the sound of breaking waves, it’s no surprise Gerbert wanted this to be her family home.

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