The Topas express stopped in the village and we walked the final 100m through the village to the Topas Riverside Lodge, across the homemade suspension bridge: Bella and Maya jumped for joy on seeing the bridge leading to the Lodge nestled on the bend of the river.
Topas Riverside Lodge
Bella and Maya watched with even more excitement from the terrace of the lodge as the local children played in the river and rock pools, desperately asking when they could join them. Both our girls adore swimming and climbing in equal measures the Riverside Lodge and the surrounding area provided the most natural playground for them.
The Long terrace at the front of the lodge provides the best viewing spot, for both watching the children play, but also to observe village life from and distance and watch the coming and goings of the village.
During our time at the lodge Marco and I both sat on the terrace numerous times, just taking in the scene in front of us, naturally the village children were the most fascinating of all to observe.
The children sticking in groups of 3-4 children, always looking out for one another, taking it in turns to jump off high rocks into the shallow pools, catching fish. They were content with making paper planes and boats testing them on the water, there were no smart phones and electronics, just an immense amount of freedom. Our girls looked on in fascination and probably with slight jealousy.
The local village
During our first afternoon we wandered down through the village, past family homes, always with children playing in the front yard usually barefoot. The children looked at us with slight fear and fascination: one young boy no more than 1 year old, was totally overwhelmed by our presence and called his mother, scared to pass us on the road.
Tourism in this valley and Nam Cang village is still in the early stages, which is great to see, as people’s livelihoods have not yet become completely reliant on tourism, which can often invade and take over ethnic groups’ traditions and beliefs.
The women of Red Dao who were bumped into in the village often wore traditional red headdresses. The women were always friendly and greeted us with a smile, whilst they worked in the fields or in the village.
I noted that they women were often doing very strenuous work, that required a lot of strength, one morning we observed a group of women dragging huge 20m lengths of bamboo down from the higher fields across the river in front the lodge. In Europe this would have been done with a tractor, but they women helped one another drag three poles of bamboo at a time across the river, like it was nothing. When they weren’t doing this manual work they sat in front of the wooden houses doing embroidery .
The Paddy Fields
We walked down to the bottom of the village and found a small makeshift bamboo bridge that led to one of the most idyllic and picturesque scenes we had seen during our trip. Bright green terraced paddy fields cascaded down the valley with the grey rocks of the river intersecting the valley.
As we walked back up through the village, the village children joined in Bella and Maya’s game of lions, and tag. The language barrier didn’t pose a problem, they all ran loudly through the village laughing and joking until we arrived at the rickety suspension bridge, then the children swam together in the river.
The Riverside Lodge
Dinner at the homestay is a simple unfussy affair, with a set menu changing daily; the open plan kitchen and dining room allows you to watch the food being prepared. The food was simple home cooked vietnamese food, with a mix or stir fried chicken and prawns, and simple vegetable dishes.
The bedrooms at Topas Riverside Lodge
The homestay has a very relaxed feel about it, the minimalist and traditional design of the homestay help with that. Although the rooms are small they have everything you need for a couple of nights and the interjoing family room was perfect for us, enabling us to keep an eye on the girls, but closed the door on them when they were playing.
Trekking around the Topas Riverside Lodge
The following day after a simple breakfast we decided to head out on another trek, but this time we wanted to head into the hills above the homestay. We followed a steep narrow path that led up above the homestay.
The girls loved this trek as it seemed like we were explorers heading into the jungle. We passed paddy fields, corn fields and small waterfalls, some of the paths required us to balance on the intricate water system and channels that fed to paddy terraced, this only added to our adventure. We walked about one hour then the path became too over grown and steep.
We headed back down for a lovely swim in the river in the higher rock pool above the home-stay which we privileged to have all to ourselves, a perfect way to end a hot sweaty trek. The girls continued to play in the lower rock pool, mostly watching the village children play and continue their daring leaps into the river.
We all felt sad to leave this simple village, even the children that played with Bella and Maya were sad to see us to go following us to our mini van and waiting to wave goodbye.
We had a wonderful stay at Topas, travelling with our girls isn’t always easy, but places immersed in nature and local culture always make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
I would have say from our girls perspective Topas Riverside lodge is up there as one of their favorite places that we’ve stayed. With rocks to climb, a river to swim in and the village children to play with, from a kids perspective who could want more?
Marco and I also felt like we really switched off, there is special atmosphere and being able to walk though the village and countryside and observe the Red Dao going about their daily lives was fascinating. The Topas Riverside Lodge and the surrounding area is definitely somewhere we would return to.