La Vie Vu Linh is an eco-lodge and sustainable development project that makes for a fantastic place to stay for a few days if you want to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Thac Ba Lake.
At the heart of La Vie Vu Linh is a projectthat works with youth from the local villages and has three main threads: education, environment and eco-tourism. Education is essential to enable villagers to get more involved in the other areas of the project and thus participate in the development of their community. The school teaches French and English as well as skills such as accounting, computing and hospitality.
The ecolodge was established as part of the training programme and currently offers accommodation in three types of room. For those on a budget, beds are available in the communal stilt house for US$15 including breakfast. Accommodation is clean, beds are in alcoves for a bit more privacy, all come with a mossie net, bedside light and power socket and the room is open to the lake, providing a pleasant breeze and a good view.
If you have a bit more money to spend and value your privacy — or just want your own bathroom — you have two types of room to choose between. The rammed earth rooms are the cheaper option, at US$40 for two people while studio duplex rooms above the restaurant/bar, with lake views, start at US$50 for two people. The latter are great for a family as they can sleep up to eight people, and even the rammed earth rooms can squeezed in an extra person for US$10 more.
It’s worth noting that although in Hanoi US$40 or US$50 will get you a decent midrange hotel, with comfy bed, TV, minibar and good shower, rooms at La Vie Vu Linh are more rustic, shall we say. Beds are hard, pillows thin, towels are useless and bathroom facilities basic — we had some problems with the water and the toilet in our room. They are however cosy and very clean and this place isn’t about the accommodation: it’s about the project and the location. We still think it’s good value, but we want to set expectations.
Note also that some rooms — and communal areas — have dry toilets. For those unfamiliar with this set-up, you shovel in a scoopful of sawdust after you’re done and the waste gets removed when necessary. But don’t worry, instructions have been posted on the wall so you can’t go wrong.
New rooms were expected to be ready in early 2014 so check with the eco-lodge yourself for more details.
A breakfast of pancakes or noodles is included in the room price and it’s advisable to arrange lunch and dinner as well as there aren’t any nearby alternatives. Fortunately the food is good — rice with whatever they decided to serve up that day. Vegetarians can be catered for. The bar serves a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at reasonable prices so guests are not permitted to BYO.
As for activities, you can choose to do very little and laze by the lake, perhaps taking a dip or floating around on an inner tube when the mood takes you, or you can participate in some of the activities on offer. Volleyball, table tennis and petanque are available at the ecolodge or you can head off-site on a bike trip or trek to local villages. Tours can be organised to discover the lake, climb Yen mountain — looking out for medicinal herbs — or explore Ngoi Tu village. Or you can immerse yourself in local culture with a Dao cooking, fishing, sewing or bamboo construction experience.
We took a boat trip, rowed by a tiny woman with very strong legs — they row here using their legs, not arms — which included a steep walk up a hill to view the lake and would recommend it. The lake is very serene and the scenery worth seeing from different angles.
There is no internet access at La Vie Vu Linh.
La Vie Vu Linh can arrange transport or will provide travel directions and a map if required. It’s a four-hour drive from Hanoi, finished off with a short boat trip, or take the train to Yen Bai and enjoy a one and half hour boat ride.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 17th January, 2014.