Vietnam: Topas Eco-Lodge

Located near the Chinese border in Northern Vietnam’s Sapa Valley is an eco-retreat so discrete… it’s 250 miles northwest of Hanoi in the 10,000 foot tall Hoang Lien Mountains, also known as the Tonkinese Alps by the Colonial French. Topas Eco-Lodge is like this:

Exotic, quaint, lush, and peaceful. It might even change your life (Vietnamese mountain regions have a way of doing that). The 25-room bungalow retreat tickled our fancy because it’s also in a particularly diverse area, home to five ethnic tribes, each with their own language and culture. A joint venture between the Danes and the Vietnamese, therefore sticking closely to Denmark’s strict environmental regulations, the property provides the perfect opportunity to experience nature and culture in ways that lead to a greater appreciation and understanding of our environment. Actively implementing practices that optimize energy and encouraging suppliers to take part in environmental protection initiatives, Topas is a living breathing example of how to do luxury, style, and ecology. By treating its own wastewater, running off solar power, and being made from limestone from a local quarry and palm-thatched roofs straight from the Vietnamese jungle, they try to think of impact with every decision they make.

Not too shabby. So how do you spend days in this peaceful lust mountainous retreat? By meditating, trekking, or biking through the friendly villages with a guide, lunching at a local’s, or taking a dip in a river. It’s really all up to you. There’s no pressure. After all, this is Vietnam. Definitely a spot to put on the Bucket List of ‘Places to See Before I Die.’

The restaurant serves everything from pork ribs with sweet brown sauce to curried chicken. But, as Concierge.com notes, “The biggest luxury is that magnificent view of the green peaks from your private balcony.”

HOW TO GET THERE

Numerous carriers fly from NY and LA to Hanoi through other gateway cities. You can get to Hanoi over-land from elsewhere in the country via train or car, but most people chose to come by plane. Hanoi’s small international airport (code: HAN) is not as served by international airlines as Ho Chi Minh City so visitors coming from Europe may fly into Bangkok and then on to Hanoi via Thai or Vietnam Airlines.

From the Americas, there are flights via Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Here are some airlines to look for deals:

*Singapore Airlines
The Singaporean national airline flies daily between Singapore and Hanoi.
*Thai Airways
The Thai national carrier flies daily to Hanoi from Bangkok.
*Vietnam Airlines
The Viet national carrier flies to Hanoi from major cities around the world.
*Pacific Airlines
The only other domestic airline in Vietnam. It is a little cheaper than Vietnam Airlines, but isn’t really a budget carrier. Also serves Taiwan.

From Hanoi, trains run day and night to the mountainous town of Lao Cai. From there, it takes an hour to drive to Sapa, the town nearest to Topas Ecolodge. These trains run day and night and night trains provide good standards of soft sleeper berths. By train, you can depart from Hanoi around 9:00pm and arrive in Lao Cai the next morning at 5am. There are many other departures and arrival options and, the best part… all transport can be arranged by Topas Ecolodge! They’ll provide daily transportation from Sapa to the Ecolodge (45 min drive). Said to be a dirt road and an interesting journey, along the way, you’ll see daily life in the rice fields and the picturesque Muong Hoa valley where beautiful locals make their way to Sapa to sell handcrafts and vegetables.

Topas Ecolodge
Tel: 84 20 872 404
Doubles from $125, including meals and transfers from Sapa

http://www.topasecolodge.com

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