One thing I love about living in Hanoi is weekends in the city—especially Sunday mornings, market mornings, in Hanoi Old Quarter. But there are weekend when I feel like I just have to escape. When I’m craving fresh air and room to breathe, I need a convenient and affordable overnight trip that won’t involve spending long hours sitting on a bus or train. Just 40km from Hanoi in neighbouring Hoa Binh Province, La Ferme du Colvert (Vịt Cổ Xanh Resort Spa) is an eco-retreat that seemed to tick all the boxes. One weekend in April, we packed our bags and headed off for a much-needed Hanoi detox.
La Ferme du Colvert is a 25-hectare property in Hoa Binh’s Luong Son district, on the westernmost fringe of Hanoi. The resort was founded by French-Vietnamese couple An Thanh Tran and Jean-Michel Chassedieu back in 2003. During the war years, Ms Tran Chassedieu sought refuge in the forests around Luong Son. Later in life, she decided to return to the area and establish a project to give back to the local community.
Many of the families living in Luong Son’s valleys belong to the Muong community, the third-largest of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups. In the last 15 years, La Ferme has provided training and employment opportunities to more than 50 Muong villagers, paving the way for ecotourism in Hoa Binh. Environmental sustainability is also a focus at La Ferme, with a range of initiatives to minimise tourism’s footprint.
Close to the Da River and not too far from Ba Vi National Park, the landscape in Luong Son is mostly rice fields and limestone formations. Much of the La Ferme property is made up of lush, tropical gardens. A collection of traditional stilt houses, relocated from a nearby Muong hamlet and scattered across the property, serve as guest accommodation. The main part of the resort features a restaurant and bar, wellness spa, and all kinds of guest facilities.
Getting to La Ferme du Colvert from Hanoi
One of La Ferme’s main draws is its close proximity to Hanoi. It’s possible to reach Luong Son in a little over an hour from the city via one of the following three routes.
The first option is to take a public intercity coach from My Dinh station. Buses bound for Hoa Binh City leave regularly (every 10 to 15 minutes) and a ticket costs 45,000 VND per person. Ask the driver to drop you off at Chợ Lương Sơn (Luong Son Market). From there, take a taxi (about 15 minutes, 40,000 VND) to La Ferme’s front gate.
It’s also possible to travel to Luong Son on Hanoi city bus number 87. Buses leave from My Dinh and terminate at a small depot on the highway, just shy of Luong Son Market. A taxi ride to La Ferme from the depot costs around 60,000 VND. City buses stop much more frequently and so the ride takes slightly longer—but the route passes through villages and backstreets, which I personally found more interesting than the highway. We ended up catching a public bus back to Hanoi at a cost of 7,000 VND per person.
The third option is to travel to La Ferme using private transport, either your own motorbike/car or by taxi/car transfer. The staff at La Ferme can help you organise a car transfer in advance.
Things to do at La Ferme du Colvert
La Ferme is a self-contained resort with all kinds of guest facilities and activities on offer. There are bikes at the front gate if you want to cycle out to the nearby villages, and staff can help organise tours farther afield in the Da River valley and beyond. (La Ferme have created their own map to help you plan sight-seeing activities in the area.) If you’ve come to relax, you can just as easily stay on the property and find enough to keep you occupied for an afternoon.
The ethos at La Ferme is all about wellness, so there are things to enrich body, mind and spirit. The large outdoor swimming pool must be heaven in summer—but it was still a little too cold for swimming when we visited in early April. We opted to walk around the grounds instead. Meandering pathways that lead you up and down gentle hills connect La Ferme’s beautifully kept gardens, tea hills and pockets of forest.
The design style at La Ferme is pretty eclectic. The restaurant and reception area remind me of a family home, where a lifetime’s worth of mementos and antiques cover every wall and surface. I really love the little Hanoian flourishes, like these rusted old cyclos set in the garden.
A spa on the property offers guests a range of massage and beauty treatments. La Ferme’s chefs can also organise cooking workshops, which would be perfect for kids. There’s a gorgeous yoga studio/gym set above the restaurant that can be used to host yoga retreats and the like.
The restaurant, Organic Colvert Atelier, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, while the Orchid Bar is open round the clock for smoothies, drinks and snacks. Organic and local ingredients feature heavily on the menu, which blends French and Vietnamese cuisine with local Muong specialties. A few years ago, La Ferme invited Didier Corlou, former executive chef at Hanoi Metropole, to train their kitchen staff—so you know the food is going to be pretty good. We tried one of the Muong set menus for dinner. Over breakfast the next morning, we got talking to Michele, a Frenchman who was there training the kitchen staff. Strong Vietnamese coffee, crepes with house-made jams and fresh butter (such a treat!) was a perfect way to start our day.
Accommodation at La Ferme du Colvert
La Ferme du Colvert can accommodate up to 150 overnight guests and up to 1000 people in its function spaces—which makes it a great choice for work retreats, corporate events and school groups. With plenty of space to run around, it’s also popular among families with young kids. Travelling as a couple, we found our room cosy and comfortable.
The different houses are separated by gates and have their own gardens and courtyards, which makes it feel very private (especially if you’re lucky enough to get one to yourself). Each house is divided into several rooms. We stayed in the Lilac House, a traditional wooden Muong house with gorgeous painted rafters in the bedroom, a private bathroom, and a reading nook.
La Ferme du Colvert
Giếng Xạ Hamlet – Cư Yên Ward
Lương Sơn, Hòa Bình, Vietnam
+84 21 8382 5662
Reserve a room or package directly through La Ferme’s website. Job seekers and volunteers interested in ecotourism can send La Ferme an expression of interest for short or long term collaborations.
We were guests of La Ferme du Colvert during our stay in April 2018, but all opinions and recommendations are my own.