While most people have heard of our famous sister property, Topas Ecolodge, dubbed by National Geographic as one of the top places to stay if you care about protecting the environment, few have had the pleasure of visiting our humble riverside retreat nestled within a sleepy Red Dzao community, forests of bamboo and pine, and thundering mountain streams.
Topas Riverside Lodge would not even exist without this lovely couple we have had the honor to meet back in 2012. Mr. and Mrs. Phu, prominent members of the Red Dzao community residing in Nam Cang Village, originally began building the home as a home for one of their eldest sons.
But when Topas Explorer Group arrived on the scene, we fell in love with the untouched beauty of the area, the warmness of the family, and the possibility to explore unseen mountain paths and meet new people.
It was at this time, in 2012, that Topas Explorer Group invested in the Phu’s project to complete the home, asking them to allow us to rent the property as a small homestay for clients traveling from overseas. This would allow guests to see a real authentic part of Vietnam, not yet tarnished by the affects of mass tourism, while providing extra income for the family in one of the region’s most poverty-stricken areas.
The first Riverside Lodge was a modest abode consisting of 9 bedrooms and 2 shared bathrooms on the top floor. It’s most beautiful feature was a wrap-around open air balcony with commanding views of the neighboring river and lush flora and fauna.
On the ground floor, the kitchen and dining room welcomed overnight guests as well as day visitors with homecooked northern Vietnamese fare, cooked to perfection. While the design has since dramatically changed with a modernization unlike anything seen before in Nam Cang Village, the food is still an integral part of the experience and remains largely unchanged do to its popularity and soul.
Topas Explorer Group officially bought the land and Nam Cang Riverside Lodge in 2019. The goal was to modernize the home by turning it from a simple homestay to a serviced lodge with comfortable facilities appreciated by overseas guests, such as ensuite bathrooms, a concierge, and spa. We also added two natural rock pools in front of the lodge to offer guests and the village children opportunities to swim and cool off during the hot summer months.
The renovation completed in May of 2020, welcoming guests for the first time to Topas Riverside Lodge in June 2020. While the appearance of the lodge changed drastically, the spirit and soul of the previous lodge was kept in tact, first and foremost with the help of the Phu’s who still help every day at the Lodge and keeping the staff from before who worked in the kitchen and housekeeping.
Often considered the heart and soul of Topas Riverside Lodge, Madame Phu can be seen every day, whether it’s collecting herbs from the jungle to concoct her special family recipe for the traditional Red Dzao herbal baths, chatting with guests, inviting them into her home to share moments together, or helping out in the kitchen.
Coming from a family of 12 other siblings (8 sisters and 4 brothers), she enjoys sharing her culture with others, especially with interesting stories such as the time when she got married.
It is customary in Red Dzao culture for the groom’s family to give silver coins and jewelry to the bride’s family in order to unite the two families into one.
Cô Pham got an unprecedented amount of 80 silver coins, 6 silver buttons (which you can see sewn on her outfit in the photo here), 2 silver bracelets, and 1 four-piece silver necklace! We suspect these offerings were given due to her beautiful warm smile and kind personality.
We have three different room categories to choose from when staying with us. Have a look by clicking below!
How much do you know about the Red Dzao’s best-kept beauty secret, the herbal bath? This signature Topas experience is a must-do activity when visiting Sapa. Learn more about this iconic tradition by reading our blog post, or browse our latest tours!