Green + Eco-Travel

Green Retreats

by Matthew Link

TOPAS ECOLODGE
Where: Northwestern Vietnam

The pitch: Located near the Chinese border some 250 miles northwest of Hanoi, the 10,000-foot Hoang Lien Mountains were branded the Tonkinese Alps by the oh-so-imaginative Colonial French. Now eco-minded travelers visit for the newly established Hoang Lien National Park and to commune with the five ethnic hill tribes, each with their own language and culture. Topas sits on a perch overlooking the mystic mountain scenery of the Sapa Valley.

Green factor: Leave it to the Scandinavians to lead the green march halfway around the world: Topas is a joint Danish/Vietnamese venture that adheres to Denmark's strict environmental regulations. The property treats its own wastewater and is run off solar power.

Creature comforts: Each of the 25 smart little bungalows is made of limestone from a nearby quarry and roofs thatched with palm. The restaurant serves up dishes such as pork ribs with sweet brown sauce and curried chicken. But the biggest luxury is that magnificent view of the green peaks from your private balcony.

Eco-activities: Days are spent trekking or biking through the friendly villages with a guide, lunching at a local's house, and taking a dip in a river.

Green rule of thumb: "Many lodges are located in sensitive cultural areas, so it's best to consult a guide or the lodge manager before visiting villages," says marketing director Tran Ngoc Quan.

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

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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