by Elisabeth Rosen
(VNS) "This doesn't feel like a resort," my friend Amy says, sipping her glass of hibiscus juice. "It feels like we're in the middle of a forest."
|Nature calls: Getiing away from it all around the scenic paths of La Ferme du Colvert. Visitors can choose to do as much or as little as they like at this countryside retreat. — Photo dacdiavn.wordpress.com
We're sitting in bamboo chairs at La Ferme du Colvert, an ecoresort about an hour's drive from Ha Noi. Winter in the capital can be gloomy, so the four of us have opted to trade the city noise and smog for the resort's Christmas weekend festivities. Surrounded by lush forest, La Ferme feels like an organic part of its surroundings, as if the buildings grew out of the verdant green trees. The place includes all the usual amenities – a spa, an elegant menu – but feels much less generic than a typical resort.
Revitalised with hibiscus juice, we walk the short distance to Prunus House, the wooden shelter where we'll be spending the night.
Modelled after the ethnic Muong houses in the nearby commune, the rooms have modern amenities with rustic touches. We're tempted to curl up under the thick quilts, but instead we button up our rambling gear and head for Dap Dom Lake, a five-minute walk from our room.
|Rustic touch: A traditional house of the Muong ethnic group offers guests a simple but comfortable place to sleep. — File Photo
According to Jean-Michel Chassedieu, the resort's owner, this is the only lake in Viet Nam where you can find wild cacoa fish. We're the only people giving it a shot, perhaps because the weather isn't exactly balmy. The affable man tending the lakeside hut equips us with fishing rods and bait, seeming mildly amused by our pursuit.
After a few fruitless minutes, we give up on catching our dinner and settle into wooden rowboats to paddle around the lake. From the water, we can see thick forests and steep cliffs where buffalo graze along dirt paths, coaxed along by Muong herders.
With an hour before dinner, Amy and I opt for a Muong massage from the resort's spa. The cosy room fills with the scent of holy basil and lemongrass. Amy says happily that the room smells like a "warm salad". I try to conjure up a more appealing phrase, but the relaxing massage is lulling me to sleep.
|La Ferme du Colvert is located in Hoa Binh, 45km west of Ha Noi. The resort will run a New Year's event from December 31-January 1. For more information or to book a place, email infos@VIET NAM-aventure.com.
We collect our travelling companions for the buffet dinner: a half-Western, half-Vietnamese smorgasbord prepared from locally sourced ingredients. There is far too much food to eat sensibly. The centrepiece, tender roast pork with crackling skin, shares the table with house-made sausages, delicate squares of quiche and generous bites of root vegetables simmered in a curry broth. (Tomorrow, that pork will reappear on char-grilled skewers, to be eaten with rice and strips of omelette). Honey-glazed chicken arrives in long strips; roasted yams, the skin still on, are flaky and tender. By the time dessert – a bowl of sweet lotus pudding – arrives, we can barely manage to ladle it into our mouths.
But this is Christmas, and the festivities continue late into the night, with music that brings together guests of all ages to dance on the terrace of the main lodge. There might not be snow, but immersed in the forest, it still feels like a holiday.