Rustic resort powerless to fully satisfy
  • | dtinews.vn | July 13, 2010 03:44 PM

A charming forest get-away in Hoa Binh strays a little too far away from comfort for the price.

A group of 50 some holiday-goers excitedly loaded onto a roomy tour bus to head for the promise of an overnight getaway in nearby Hoa Binh Province, eager to get away from the heat of summertime in Hanoi.

The destination: La Ferme du Colvert in Hoa Binh, described online as a “Vietnamese - French resort set in wild countryside” and as a place “ideal for those who need a break from the noisy busy cities.” I’ll happily attest to the natural appeal of the land and the peace and quiet. However, the establishment’s problems with supplying power and inability to respond adequately to the needs of guests indicate that it’s got a ways to go before becoming the truly spectacular oasis it has the potential to be.

Guests were given a range of choices in rooms; some went for the cheaper beds in rooms with only fans; others chose to pay a premium for the promise of a cool night’s sleep.

Our arrival and welcome from the staff was pleasant, if oddly complicated by a two-step queuing and check-in procedure. Everybody was shown to their rooms, oohing and aahing over the rustic charm of the grounds and the abundant vegetation (think jack-fruits the size of small poodles growing overhead).

The décor is a quirky blend of traditional Vietnamese textiles combined with carved wooden signs and nautical trinkets like wooden ducks and large-scale model ships. The rooms themselves range from basic (and a bit dingy) to grand, complete with old-fashioned carved wooden beds.

After check-in most guests reconvened around the pool, beneath overhanging branches of bamboo and palm. Beer was discovered, and serious relaxation began.

After a couple of hours splashing about or relaxing in thatched huts scattered around the lush grounds, we all migrated to the open courtyard for dinner: a parade of courses from pork skewers and squid salad to roast chicken and fried fish, and lots in between. You could tell from the hush that the delicious food was well appreciated—that is, until dusk fell and the lights cut out. The staff apologized, and after a few moments the lights were back up so we thought little of it.

With dinner over, special guest DJs Polo, Kulture, and Cybersnack set up their equipment. Throughout the following hours, as the three DJ wizards spun their musical magic, more failures and surges in power broke the flow of the beats several times, bringing dancers to a halt and worse, threatening to damage the pricey sound equipment.

Soon word traveled that the entire province was dealing with power outages. Still, a few guests were quick to point out that they had stayed at La Ferme with similar issues before. It seems it’s a chronic problem that the owners have failed to address adequately. Their back-up generator can’t sustain a high volume, meaning as music and large flat-screen TVs run in the central building, the rest of the houses’ power has to be cut completely. Staff assured concerned guests that once the party was over, power could be diverted back to the rooms.

But unfortunately, even then there was scarcely enough power to run the fans, and those only for a few hours. Thereafter we were left without a trickle of electricity. A/C? Out of the question. Fans? Water for showers? Lights to find your way to the bathroom? Better luck next time.

Come morning, those 50 some bedraggled, overheated, partied-out Hanoians crept back to the refreshing blue water of the swimming pool, downed icy beverages, and grumbled over breakfast. A sign was posted in the central room: to compensate for the inconvenience, each guest would receive a complimentary beer at lunchtime, as well as a free 30-minute massage or facial.

I myself went for the facial, and found it took the edge off my own bad mood. After all, when you spend about 50USD extra just for the comfort of air conditioning, and end up sweating the night away in a room without even a fan to push around the stifling air, you get a bit grumpy.

After my cucumber mask, I decided to explore the extensive grounds. My wanderings carried me over stone paths, through shady stands of giant bamboo, to an empty but quaint tea-house, and finally over a rise onto a wide, grassy hillock overlooking a large fishing pond. Each view was more stunning than the last. Coming back down the hill, I noticed a small flock of white ducks paddling around the central lotus pond. Hence the name of the resort, I finally understood, as some French I had seen on a menu once or twice came to mind.

Completing my loop, I returned to the main house.Showers were still unavailable, so as we gathered again with our bags to wait for the bus, most of us were feeling grimy and more than ready to return to our homes.

As for La Ferme du Colvert—well, I personally would love to return and soak up more of that verdant country charm. Nevertheless, I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a luxury experience or with an express need for electricity. The owners, who I understand live in France and are often absent, have a precious gem in their hands. But until they step up and provide the kind of management and staff training necessary to run the place well, it may be destined to remain a little-known diamond in the rough.

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