All photography by Christian Berg
The Mekong Delta’s sunny skies and marvelous rivers are best enjoyed in the company of others. Let Mekong Rustic’s smiling locals be your hosts for your Delta adventure. Positioned in Can Tho and Cai Be, this outfit works with local communities to develop accommodations and low-impact tours that show how the Vietnamese actually live in the Delta. Whether you choose the homestay option or the bungalows, you’ll be warmly welcomed with delicious fruits, shown around fruit farms, canals and fish ponds, and fed abundant, nourishing meals, morning, noon and night.
For a tropical getaway in the brilliant green fields of Hoi An, look no further than Hoi An Chic. This sustainable oasis delivers the beauty of Hoi An’s countryside right to your doorstep, with 17 gorgeous rooms, a rooftop pool, and terrace a restaurant -- all surrounded by flowering gardens. The hotel followed sustainable practices from the start, using natural and locally sourced materials such as marble, bamboo and rattan to create its guest spaces. Fresh herbs and vegetables are grown in an organic garden on site, and plastic alternatives such as refillable water bottles, straw bags and hats are provided in the rooms. The property also segregates and composts waste, recycles wastewater, and buys from local markets and craft villages to support the community.
It is hard to pinpoint the highlight of a stay at Topas Ecolodge. The incredible food? The infinity pool? The ever-changing valley views? Or maybe it’s the trekking among rice terraces and ethnic minority villages. Suffice to say, there are numerous good reasons to visit, but the best is the positive impact the Topas group is making in this part of Lao Cai Province. By employing more than 100 people from ethnic villages, buying produce from nearby farmers, and carefully managing its waste, water, and energy resources the lodge has set a benchmark for sustainable stays within Vietnam.
If having a true local experience is at the top of your list in Vietnam, there’s no better option than a homestay. The experts at Ecohost are applying a community-based ecotourism model to support a handful of homestays in the northern province of Nam Dinh. Eat, chat, and tour with a real local family and discover a slower pace of life in rural Vietnam while creating much-appreciated income for small families. Ecohost provides service training for each homestay host, and supports them in preparing their homes to welcome foreign travellers. Guests in turn receive an authentic perspective on Vietnamese culture, and can support the preservation of local traditions through tours and activities.
Enjoy having nature to yourself? Then you’ll love discovering Lak Tented Camp. This glamping site is perched on the banks of Lak Lake, an hour from the airport in Buon Ma Thuot. A short boat ride takes you to the dock, where you’ll be welcomed inside a restored M’nong stilt house, and shown your tent. Each of the 15 tents features a porch overlooking the lake, and is equipped with comfy beds, handsome furniture, and ethnic pieces. Apart from providing jobs to local communities and preserving ethnic minority culture via its tours and design, Lak Tented Camp also grows its own food on site, purifies fresh water from shallow wells, and heats it using solar power. Bravo!
Don’t let the fun name fool you. Mango Bay is serious about at least one thing: protecting the environment. This barefoot chic resort on the island of Phu Quoc has taken up the baton as a custodian of the island’s tropical treasures. The resort’s operations include best practices such as composting and on-site water purification; however Mango Bay goes a step further with its long-term reef rehabilitation and tree-planting projects, and even conducts biodiversity surveys on Phu Quoc in partnership with Wildlife At Risk. If that isn’t enough for a feel-good getaway, just wait until you see the resort’s on-the-rocks beach bar and gorgeous garden bungalows.
Sustainable cruising has arrived in the Mekong Delta. Launched in late 2019, Victoria Mekong is undertaking a different sort of experience in Delta. Yes, its Jacuzzi pool, private cinema and floating spa are all fabulous, however it’s the ship’s environmentally friendly operations that make it stand out from the rest. Step aboard and you’ll find plastic-free staterooms, a freshwater generator, solar heating panels, sewage treatment plant, and state-of-the-art engines for maximum fuel efficiency coupled with minimum noise and emissions. Each itinerary includes star attractions in the Delta’s riverside towns, as well as cultural excursions to lesser-known gems.
Ah, Pu Luong! Even the name sounds refreshing. Nestled amid lovely rice terraces, bubbling streams and tidy ethnic villages, Pu Luong Retreat capitalizes on the area’s restorative qualities. The owners hired local carpenters to create each structure and space using natural materials found in the area, and made existing trees part of the resort’s design. Beautiful balconies face a misty panorama of hills and paddies, and the retreat’s rock garden, chemical-free infinity pool and stilt houses blend harmoniously with the surroundings. If you feel like exploring, hike or bike nearby trails to see waterfalls and ethnic villages, or try bamboo rafting along the river.
Little Hoi An is famously known for its UNESCO-listed Ancient Town and beguiling lantern-strung streets. Away from the tourist hangouts, the local community in An My village goes about life in much the same way as always: farming, fishing, gardening, rearing animals, and raising family. Savanna Villa makes this tranquil daily life the theme of its private villa concept. Built to world-class sustainable standards, Savanna’s villas incorporate natural airflow, solar heating, wastewater treatment, and are plastic-free. Planted with local trees and flowers, these villas not only look great on Instagram, they also help Hoi An retain its countryside charm.
One of the most storied properties in Ho Chi Minh City, the Caravelle is a perfect example of an established city hotel committing to positive change. The Caravelle was the first property in Vietnam to receive Earthcheck’s Gold Certification in 2015, and has held onto that status ever since by meeting the industry’s best benchmarks for daily operations. All rooms are lit with LED lights, check in is paper-free, and water refill stations are located on each floor. Even more endearing, the hotel’s staff regularly stage clean-ups, fun runs and even flash mobs to raise awareness around climate change.
There’s nothing more dreamy than an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay… that is, except for a two-night cruise in Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. This extraordinary place is under threat, which is why it’s great to see Bhaya Cruises taking a stance to protect its natural beauty. Bhaya operates with a ‘zero single-use plastic’ policy, diversifies its guests away from over-visited attractions, and hosts an annual clean-up event to remove trash from Ha Long’s limestones islets. Churning through ancient seascapes and stopping at hidden caves, Bhaya’s cruises are simply magical.