Have you ever stayed somewhere you knew was truly special? Be it a hotel, hostel or campsite in the middle of the jungle, some places stand out more than others. For me, Topas Eco Lodge in Sapa, Northern Vietnam, is one of those places that will forever be etched in my memory. This stunning eco resort looks like it has been picked straight from a fairytale, complete with misty mountains and winding, cobblestone paths that lead to another world.
My friend and fellow travel blogger Curious Claire and I stayed at Topas Eco Lodge on our trip around Northern Vietnam in May and only now when i look back through all the photos we took (yes, there were MANY) do I realise how truly special this place really was.
It was my second visit to Sapa and I was super excited to return to my favourite place in Vietnam. Home to the fascinating Hmong tribe, known for their colourful traditional clothes, knowledge of the surrounding hills and skills as fabric makers. (You should check out my friend Donna’s blog Haute Culture Fashion as she has written about them in detail), Sapa is the most incredible town. Famous for it’s terraced rice fields, cooler climate and stunning Mountainous landscape, no trip to Vietnam in my eyes would be complete without visit here.
We were going to take the night bus, which is what I did last time, but the thought of arriving in at 5am and having to wait around for hours before we could check into our hotel was not appealing. We opted to take an early morning bus from Hanoi which dropped us in Sapa at around lunch time. Claire and I had great fun snap chatting our bus adventures, pretending we were on some strange episode of MTV Cribs! The bus miraculously only took about 5 hours to get to Sapa and on arrival we were greeted with a throng of local women asking if we needed hiking guides or if we wished to do a homestay.
We made friends with one young girl, who said she was 15 years old, and agreed to let her me our guide the next morning. To seal the deal, she tied a handmade friendship bracelet around my wrist and made me promise i would meet her at the main church in Sapa the next morning in order to go on our hike to see her village. That’s just how things are done here.
We made our way into town, eventually found the office of our hotel and were driven to Topas Eco lodge in a private shuttle. It was MUCH further away from Sapa than we imagined, almost 45 minutes further into the valley. So far, in fact, that we had left Black Hmong territory and were now in a town inhabited by another local tribe, known as the Red Dao people, who arrived in Vietnam from China in the 18th century.
Once we were dropped off at the lodge and checked in, Claire and I couldn’t believe we could be staying in such a beautiful place. (Our stay was sponsored by the lodge….being a travel blogger has it’s many benefits, ya know?!) We wandered around the grounds for about an hour until we came across the spa (with the most spectacular views in the world…seriously!) and discovered there was an outdoor hot tub for anyone to use overlooking the valley below. JACKPOT! We decided to spend the afternoon relaxing in the sunshine with some beers and made some friends with some local Red Dao women from whom we bought a few souvenirs.
That evening we signed up for a facial which, while very relaxing, was not as peaceful as i would have hoped thanks to the 5 million mosquitos landing on my face, arms, legs, hair etc. As much the idea of an ‘open spa’ with all the doors open and a nice rustic feel might seem, it really isn’t that practical. Considering the price tag we had to pay (cheapest facial ever!) we decided not to complain and just got on with out evening.
We spent the evening in the bar area (the only part of the eco lodge with internet) and had to laugh when we noticed all the other guests were doing the same. one family, all 5 of them, were grouped around on some couches in front of a laptop, praying for the internet connection not to break off so they could catch up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones! We even enjoyed a game of scrabble (they have a pretty good selection of board games), indulged in a hot chocolate and were fast asleep in bed by 9.30pm! This may sound quite dull, but it reminded me of my childhood holidays in Ireland and was a real treat from the crazy party atmosphere i had encountered everywhere else in Vietnam. A real getaway.
We had so much fun in the outdoor hot tub the next morning that it almost turned into a full blown photo shoot. Seriously, we took WAY too many photos but it was so much fun. Sadly I think there was a leak in the wooden tub so no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t really fill it up! We then enjoyed a delicious breakfast with one of the most incredible views in the world. I mean just check out this photo below!
I could go on for ages about how much I love this place, how I didn’t want to leave and why I would recommend it to anyone travelling to Sapa, but I think my photos will do this place better justice than my words.
Feel free to leave comment if you have any questions about staying here or Sapa in general. :-)