On this tour you will stay in a range of accommodation, including the Mai Chau Lodge, just outside Hanoi, who are committed to sustainable tourism and can boast staff made up of 100% local villagers. The Lodge is involved in training and education of the staff in both hospitality and various trades, providing them with transferrable skills. They also support charity and building projects in the nearby villages of Xo, Van and Panh. The Lodge purchases local products wherever possible and understands the need for sustainability of the region’s resources. To this end, they also engage in a programme of planting native trees in and around Mai Chau.
The Lodge employs local people as trades-people and hospitality staff. Due to the remote location of the Lodge, the management decided to employ locals with a specific trade, ie carpentry, farming etc as full time staff and also train them up as front of house staff and guides. This means that not only have the staff learnt an extra skill in the hospitality industry which they can take into other jobs but the Lodge has full time craftsmen on hand in case anything goes wrong, avoiding the need for them to travel from Sapa.
Any food the Lodge does not grow themselves in their small on-site garden, they source from the local region (this goes for other essentials too), thereby reducing the need for the transportation of goods over great distances and keeps the money in the local economy, which is very important to the poorer hill tribes. Topas Ecolodge works very closely with the local Red Dzao tribe women, and they are currently setting up a small retail unit from which they can sell their handcrafted artefacts safely.
Topas Ecolodge complies with GreenGlobe 21, an environmental certification program, which has legislation requiring environmental and social policy to be reviewed every year. On this itinerary we have deliberately left your time in Sapa ‘at leisure’ to allow you to utilise and pay the local Topas Ecolodge guides directly. Transport to and from Sapa and from Hanoi to Hue is by local train. This not only offers a more authentic Vietnamese experience but also avoids the need for extra road or flight transportation and thus pollution.
The Pilgrimage Village just outside Hue is a small, boutique hotel which, while offering guests a luxurious stay, also offers the chance to get involved in the skills of the local Vietnamese craftsmen and women. The hotel has a dedicated ‘handicraft house’ where guests can create a unique piece for themselves and also buy those made by the on-site artisans, thereby benefitting the locals financially and providing you with a fascinating insight into the artistic traditions of the country and an often unique piece of art.
Our Vietnamese ground agents only employ local guides and drivers to accompany our clients thus keeping the money in the community. As a company they have also committed to moving forward with green initiatives with regards their office administration. This includes little things like going paperless throughout (including the use of e-books and the launch of a staff intranet containing all relevant information to avoid the need for reference guides), using text messages to send instructions to guides to avoid them having to come into the office and the cancelling of brochure production.
Our ground agent also supports 2 charities, Right to Play and the local Vietnamese charity KOTO. KOTO is a not-for-profit restaurant and vocational training program based in Hanoi that is changing the lives of street and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam. KOTO has grown from a small sandwich shop in Hanoi to a 120-seat restaurant and internationally accredited hospitality program that gives young people the start in life that everyone deserves. KOTO graduates complete the program as confident and capable young adults who are able to take control of their own lives. They are highly valued by the hospitality industry in Vietnam and many now work in top hotels and restaurants in Hanoi. Our ground agent supports the charity by providing services and financial support.
They also support the international charity Right to Play, established in the early 1990’s which helps give children a chance to become constructive participants in society, regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, social background or religion. Through games and sports, they help create social change in communities affected by war, poverty and disease.