Stay in a Stunning Ethnic Village
Stay in a Stunning Ethnic Village, with a Heavy Touch of the Luxurious…
By Peter Mahomet
Nestled in ethnic Co Tu territory, in the mountains between Da Nang and Laos, is the picturesque village of Bho Hoong. Roughly 65km from Da Nang, to get there you follow an incredibly scenic (for both natural and cultural sights) country road that winds its way through steep mountains, lush forests and swidden lands. From some viewpoints, you can see all the way down through the valley to Marble Mountain and the azure ocean in the distance.
Bho Hoong village, situated on the banks of the Kon river and flanked by impressive mountain peaks, is home to a small group of people of the Co Tu ethnicity. The Co Tu are thought to have come from southern China a few thousand years ago, and migrated down into Vietnam, Laos and eventually into Malaysia before returning to central Vietnam. Their rich tradition of steep, thatch-roofed houses and wood carving reveals their relationship to some Malay cultures – for a highland people, caricatures of sea life such as turtles and sea serpents are surprisingly common.
Well regarded in the past as fierce warriors – the Co Tu only stopped headhunting 50 years ago – they have largely been left alone by the Vietnamese Kinh majority. Like many of Vietnam’s remote ethnic groups, the economic success enjoyed by coastal and riverine areas of the country has not really made it to their alpine home yet. Theirs is a simple agrarian existence, occasionally supplemented by government pensions for their efforts as tenacious fighters during the American war.
The government has attempted to improve a few Co Tu communities, including Bho Hoong village, but with mixed success. And this is where Active Adventures Vietnam comes in. About seven years ago, the government decided to turn Bho Hoong into a tourist “homestay” with a view to increasing the villagers’ incomes. A number of traditional-style longhouses and a communal house were built as accommodation for visitors. Unfortunately the project was not well thought through, and the whole ‘new’ village sat dormant and unloved for a few years.
Pham Vu Dung, Mark Wyndham and Vu The Vinh from Active Adventures Vietnam negotiated with the local government to let them renovate and reignite the homestay venture – and it worked. As you cross the suspension bridge that spans the rolling Kon river, you are met by a beautifully bucolic scene: a cluster of traditional wooden houses on stilts, with their steep thatched roofs, dotted around the edge of a village common, the whole area lorded over by the majestic communal house. It is difficult to describe the splendor of this communal house, with its massive central wooden column thrusting towards the firmaments, covered with intricate yet subtle carvings and tribal paintings.
What makes this small ethnic village different from the rest is that the traditional houses have been individually styled, each one taking the name of a different animal sacred to the Co Tu people. In addition, all the bungalows have their own private balcony overlooking the peaceful river – the perfect place to rest, read, contemplate and forget all your troubles.
Modern conveniences such as marble en-suite bathrooms and comfortable mattresses with high quality linen have been added to ensure a luxurious stay. Twin and triple rooms are available for friends and small families, and a nice hot cup of locally grown tea awaits you when you arrive.
The great thing about this whole venture is that everyone wins: tourists get a glimpse into a wonderful bygone world that most people will never see; local villagers benefit from increased employment and ownership; the environment and culture are protected through increased awareness and education; and Active Adventures Vietnam gains another successful tourism partnership in the region.
For more information about this amazing village, visit the Bho Hoong project website: www.bhohoongbungalows.com