Our experience at Topas Ecolodge in Vietnam
Venetia describes her stay at Topas Ecolodge, a beautiful mountain hideaway in northern Vietnam.
After a long journey up a winding road, we reached Topas Ecolodge, which lies in Hoang Lien National Park in northern Vietnam’s Lào Cai province. This secret hilltop hideaway provides an excellent base for day walks and longer treks through terraced paddy fields to reach H’mong and Dao villages, where traditional dress is still worn and ancient beliefs hold sway.
On arrival, we were given some fresh ginger tea and met by the owners who explained the significance of the setting. They place great importance on sustainability and environmental conservation, striving to ensure that the lodge has a minimum impact on nature and to support the ancient way of life still present here. The panoramic views were incredible. My first reaction was how small we felt, as I looked out across what seemed like an eternity of valleys and bright-green paddy fields.
We were then shown to our bungalow, our home for the next two nights. The 25 rooms, all overlooking these sweeping vistas, have been designed with an eco focus – with each one built with local granite in a simple and chic style to avoid detracting from the scenery. Ours overlooked the village of Thanh Kim, with the dramatic mountains behind almost looking like a painting. A notable absence of Wi-Fi and television is all part of the charm, as we were urged to switch off and absorb our surroundings.
Soon, we set out with our private guide, Kip, to explore some of the local villages and neighbouring valleys. We were led through paddy fields with not another person in sight, along scenic trails through the lush countryside and unspoilt landscapes. August is a wonderful time to visit this region, with the scenery at its most beautiful just before the harvest takes place.
After a long trek, passing small settlements and crystal-clear waterfalls, we headed back for a swim in the infinity pool. We then enjoyed a traditional Vietnamese herbal bath in the open-air spa, where you gaze upon the endless views of towering peaks and tiny villages while soaking in your cedar bathtub. As I sat there, all I could wonder was when I would be able to come back here.
Dinner was an experience in itself. Endless courses of delicious, fresh, local dishes were presented, with the chef explaining where the ingredients were from. They endeavour to maintain relationships with farmers in the area, working directly with them towards produce that is wholly organic. Everything we tasted was excellent, including a couple of typical regional dishes, such as thang co, which originated from the HÃ Giang province and gradually gained popularity among the ethnic minorities in these remote northern mountains of Vietnam.
From the materials used to construct each bungalow to the produce in the restaurant and the carefully curated hikes to tiny villages, there is a resounding focus on the environment and the community – within which this lodge sits peacefully. I am very excited about including this special place in many of our clients’ Vietnamese adventures.