The first stop of our Northern Vietnam tour is Vu Linh, a village half way between Hanoi and Ha Giang. We had decided to stop here as a way to break up the long 8+ hour drive. A quick search led us to La Vie Vu Linh, an eco-lodge on the Thac Ba Lake. Founded by a French guy who has been living in Vietnam for nearly two decades, the lodge has a mission to support the surrounding minority communities via tourism and training.
Our car dropped us off at a riverbank, and a boat was waiting to take us to the lodge. This was a delightful little surprise. Despite being in her 70s, our French-Vietnamese hostess energetically recounted the fascinating origin of the place. We learned about the Dai cultural norms from the staff, one of the 54 minority groups in Vietnam.
Avoid Summer Visits
In the afternoon, we went for a swim in the lake. Thac Ba Lake is a man-made lake to have more water sources in the region. So fascinating to think there used to be an entire village where the lake is now. Our visit was right in the height of summer in July. The weather was sweltering and humid – to the point where the lake water was so warm that it didn’t actually feel refreshing.
Tip: Definitely avoid visiting during the summer months of July and August. While we had a lovely time, I was always hot. I can imagine this place being much more pleasant in the autumn or spring months.
A Real Sense of Community
On our only full day in town, we eased into the journey with a walk around the Vu Linh village. Our hostess took us through the rice fields, and I love the village hospitality. Everyone we passed said hello, and one lovely lady gave us bananas!
In the late afternoon, one of the staff’s dad took us on a boat ride. The traditional rowboat is without engine and with a twist – people row with their feet to free up their hands. So peaceful to enjoy the scenery without the motor revving. We arrived in the neighboring village of Phuc An, where we found traditional Dao houses on stilts. Our walk through the village led us to a dead-end road with a spectacular view.
On the way back, our guide took us to a friend’s home for some water. I always appreciate the perspective to see how others live. We also encountered some fishermen. The chaos of Saigon traffic felt incredibly far away on our calm boat ride home.
At La Vie Vu Linh, all the meals are included in the room fare. We ate with the staff and shared a great sense of community. The food is traditional and always comes with shots of rice wine. I absolutely loved not needing to expend any energy on what to eat for meals. The fact everything we ate was absolutely delicious was a real bonus.
Why Stay at La Vie Vu Linh
The no-frills lodge is best for those who seek a quiet place to retreat. It’s an ideal location to turn off your digital devices and rest well on airplane mode for a few days. The rooms are basic, and given its location along the rivers, there are plenty of mosquitos and little bugs. Nothing harmful, but do keep that in mind if you get squeamish with insects.
I loved the close-knit community with the staff and members of the community that the lodge has created. That lively vibe permeates for the guests as well, and it’s something so sorely missing in our modern life. The genuine community also provides a way for travelers to give back and to travel responsibly.
La Vie Vu Linh provides employment opportunities and trains the youth in hospitality and the English language. As an American, it always astounds me to meet people living in small villages that speak impeccable English without ever leaving their region. If you are based in Hanoi or in the North of Vietnam, I can definitely recommend La Vie Vu Linh for a weekend getaway.