Nestled away in Yen Bai province, 170km from Hanoi, on the banks of the quiet Thac Ba Lake, is La Vie Vu Linh. It’s an eco-lodge, built according to local traditional techniques in the midst of the Red Dzao minority Ngoi Tu Village. It promotes eco-tourism in harmony with the local population and the environment.
Enter the lodge and a beautiful traditional stilt house welcomes you with a large and comfortable open-air lounge and bar. La Vie Vu Linh offers a large range of rooms, accommodating all budgets and styles, including a large dormitory that can host around 20 people, an African-Vietnamese inspired house with double or triple rooms, fancier lakeview rooms and a duplex studio with private bathrooms.
Fresh air and water surround you in a bucolic landscape, the atmosphere here is relaxed, friendly and family-oriented. You are not just coming to any hotel; you’re welcomed among friends into a new temporary home in the countryside. Dinners are offered family-style if you wish, with staff and guests sitting on the floor sharing local dishes, rice wine and laughter. There are plenty of activities, so you’re unlikely to get bored.
Thac Ba Lake is one of the largest artificial lakes in Vietnam, with more than 1,300 islands. The lake is the main attraction in the area, with boat trips, swimming, and cave exploring. If you aren’t into water activities, there are plenty of opportunities for trekking or cycling.
La Vie Vu Linh is more than just a lodge for a weekend gateway. The owners and partners strongly believe in sustainable development and in developing tourism hand-in-hand with the local community. Most of the staff come from surrounding villages; there are seven permanent apprentices who come to learn their craft and new skills, making a total of 50 since the opening. Some staff stay here with their families, a lot learn from the opportunity and then move on to better their lives.
La Vie Vu Linh also welcomes volunteers, whether to teach the local children or to teach hospitality techniques to new staff, develop cultural projects or improve the eco-sustainability of the lodge.
Léa, a young French student studying a Masters in Service Management, was here this summer to help with bookings and provide an outsider’s perspective on how the place is run. Bertrand, whom I met on his last day, spent a few weeks at la Vie Vu Linh to develop two artistic and cultural projects, a play about one of the Red Dzao’s most important rites of passage for a young man entering adult life; and a photo exhibition using the lodge’s archives to explain the birth of the La Vie Vu Linh Project and life around the lake.
Harmony and Ecology
The last component of the project is eco-sustainability and agro-forestry and the development of respect and protection of the environment, less harmful agricultural practices and the preservation of the lake.
In the orchard, mango, guava, pomelo and papaya trees grow in harmony with other plants to minimize the use of pesticides, a project developed hand-in-hand with volunteer agro-engineers. This practice encourages environment-friendly agricultural use and shows the community there are alternatives to traditional monoculture.
The lodge also keeps a few pigs for consumption, and have a treatment system that recycles the animals’ waste into biogas. The biogas system that ran as a prototype through 2015 will be fully operational by the year-end and will supply the kitchen with gas. It will also produce electricity. The lodge’s waste water also undergoes ecological treatment before being released into the lake thanks to a Used Water Phyto-Purification system.
Aided by the financial support of sponsors, local families are starting to install such systems in their homes.
La Vie Vu Linh offers a great combination of sustainability and tourism with a coherent eco-friendly and community development project in beautiful surroundings. — Julie Vola
For more info click on lavievulinh.com or call (0293) 851188
Photos by Julie Vola