Feb. 4, 2010, 8:01 a.m. by SMARTBRIDE
Honeymoon Series: Eco Adventure
If you're a green-conscious honeymooner, you have more options than ever, with eco-tourism spots proliferating across the globe. A truly romantic eco-honeymoon off the beaten path can be found high in northwestern Vietnam's remote Hoang Lien mountains.
Read on for more information on where to stay and eat, and what to do while you're there!
Where to Stay:
The Danish-run Topas Ecolodge ($120 USD/night) consists of twenty-five solar powered bungalows nestled amid terraced rice paddies and tribal villages. The cool mountain air and surreal vistas are more Swiss Alps than Saigon, and you'll find it hard to tear yourself away from the private balcony in each bungalow overhanging the lush green valley below.
Built in 2003, the Ecolodge bungalows are constructed of locally sourced white granite and hardwood. The lodge recycles its garbage, processes its own wastewater and provides guests with biodegradable soap. The Ecolodge strives for a rustic luxury, and you'll find spacious and airy bungalows with well-outfitted granite bathrooms. Though there are no phones, the main lodge can be reached by the walkie talkies in each room.
What to Do:
Market: The nearby town of Sapa attracts large crowds with its weekend market, where colorfully-garbed tribes sell local handcrafts.
Day Hikes / Bikes: More rewarding are the guided hiking or biking treks (extra cost) available from the Ecolodge as day trips or multi-day excursions. Bikes are supplied, but if on foot you'll need sturdy hiking boots for traversing the valley's rice paddies into small villages inhabited by Black Hmong, Red Dao and Tay ethnic minority tribes. Away from the crowds of Sapa, you can enjoy lunch at a village home and swim in cool mountain waterfalls. Cap off the day with a breathtaking sunset ride back up to the Ecolodge on the back of a local motorcycle.
Multi-day Excursions: If you fancy yourself a serious mountaineer, you can arrange a three-day ascent of Mount Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak. Check out www.topastravel.vn for more details.
Where to Eat: Unless you can wrangle a long minibus ride into the town of Sapa, you're eating at the Ecolodge. Fortunately, it serves heaping quantities of some of the best food you'll find in the area, fresh from its on-site farm, with charmingly unpolished service from locals working with the Ecolodge.
Getting There: Getting to this remote outpost can be an adventure in itself. Although Lao Cai is only 380 km northwest of Hanoi, the winding journey takes 10 hours by road (a return ticket on a minibus can range from $30 - 50 per person). If spending two days of your honeymoon in a bus is not appealing, a soft berth on a night train from Hanoi gets you to Lao Cai early the next morning for about $30 per person each way. From Lao Cai, a $2 minibus takes you into the town of Sapa, where the Topas shuttle picks you up for the final hour (18km) to the Ecolodge through rutted mountain roads populated by water buffalo.
Hotel Rates: 25 bungalows starting at $110 a night (single) and $120 a night (double), including breakfast. Prices increase slightly on weekends. Lunch ($11) and Dinner ($15) not included.