Panhou Reterat - gardens and surroundings

Panhou Retreat, Vietnam

An Immersive Eco-Adventure

Nestled in the heart of Vietnam’s Song Chay mountains, Panhou Retreat offers an extraordinary escape into nature and culture. This eco-lodge, situated amidst breathtaking landscapes, provides a unique blend of tranquility and adventure. Over the course of five days and four nights, I embarked on an unforgettable journey, exploring lush forests, terraced rice fields, and vibrant local villages. The retreat’s commitment to sustainability and cultural preservation made my stay both enriching and inspiring. Join me as I recount my immersive experience at Panhou Retreat, where every moment was a step closer to nature and heritage.

By Nic Scaramuzzino | Director of Sales – France & Italy

Day 1: Arrival 

The journey to Panhou Retreat began with a sense of anticipation and excitement. Nestled in the heart of the Song Chay mountains, adjoining Yunnan, this eco-lodge promised a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural immersion. As I arrived in the afternoon, I was immediately struck by the tranquility of the surroundings. The retreat is not just a place to stay; it is a sanctuary where one can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The first day was dedicated to rest and acclimatisation, allowing me to soak in the serene atmosphere and prepare for the adventures ahead.

Panhou Retreat
Panhou Retreat - aerial

Day 2: Exploring the Mountains and Red Dao Villages

After a restful night, I woke up early to the sounds of nature and the crisp mountain air. Breakfast at the Panhou Retreat restaurant was a delightful experience, with a variety of fresh, local dishes that energized me for the day ahead. By 9 am, I was ready to embark on my hike with a local guide, who was a member of one of the minority groups in the Song Chay Mountains.

The hike took us through lush tropical forests and terraced rice fields. The scenery was breathtaking, with vibrant greenery stretching as far as the eye could see. After a three-hour walk, we reached a village of the Red Dao, where we paused for lunch. The villagers, known for their laborious adjustments to the mountainside for rice cultivation, welcomed us warmly. The lunch provided a unique opportunity to taste traditional Red Dao cuisine, which was both hearty and delicious.

Continuing our hike, we traversed more stunning landscapes, eventually reaching another Red Dao village. Here, I had the chance to interact with the locals, learn about their daily activities, and appreciate their way of life. The day ended with a sense of accomplishment and a deeper understanding of the Red Dao culture.

Panhou Retreat - trekking
Panhou Retreat - surroundings

Day 3: From Phin Ho to Nam Son

The third day began with a hearty breakfast at our Red Dao homestay. The morning air was cool and refreshing as we descended into the valley, passing through tea plantations and bamboo forests. The trail led us past isolated Man Ta Pan houses and traditional Tay stilt houses, offering a glimpse into the diverse architectural styles of the region.

A Red Dao family welcomed us for lunch, providing another opportunity to enjoy local hospitality and cuisine. The path then took us through the “door of heaven,” a picturesque route that led us to Nam Ai. By the end of the day, we reached Nam Son, where we stayed with a Yao long tunic family. This evening was particularly memorable as it offered a chance to learn about the Yao people’s lifestyle and customs.

Continuing our hike, we traversed more stunning landscapes, eventually reaching another Red Dao village. Here, I had the chance to interact with the locals, learn about their daily activities, and appreciate their way of life. The day ended with a sense of accomplishment and a deeper understanding of the Red Dao culture.

Panhou Retreat - hill tribes
Panhou Retreat - hill tribes

Day 4: Return to Panhou Retreat

Our final day of trekking began with breakfast at the Yao homestay. The journey back to Panhou Retreat took us through more beautiful landscapes, including bamboo forests and terraced rice fields. We stopped for lunch at a Red Dao village before continuing our trek, which concluded in the mid-afternoon.

Returning to Panhou Retreat felt like coming home. The familiar surroundings were comforting after the days of trekking. Dinner at the retreat was a delightful affair, with a menu that celebrated local flavours and ingredients.

Panhou Retreat - hill tribes
Panhou Retreat - surroundings

Day 5: Departure

The final morning at Panhou Retreat was bittersweet. After a delicious breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to the place that had become a second home. The experience had been enriching and unforgettable, providing a deep connection to nature and the local cultures.

Panhou Retreat lobby
Panhou Retreat - deluxe

Reflections on the Panhou Experience…

Panhou Retreat is more than just an eco-lodge; it is a gateway to discovering the rich cultural tapestry of the Song Chay mountains. The retreat’s commitment to sustainability and respect for local traditions is evident in every aspect of the experience. From the thoughtfully designed accommodations to the immersive cultural activities, Panhou Retreat offers a unique blend of comfort and authenticity.

The hikes were both challenging and rewarding, providing stunning views and opportunities to interact with local communities. Each village we visited had its own unique charm, and the hospitality of the Red Dao and Yao people was truly heartwarming.

One of the highlights of the trip was the chance to learn about traditional agricultural practices and the efforts made by the villagers to adapt to the mountainous terrain. The terraced rice fields and tea plantations are not only visually striking but also a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of the local communities.

The culinary experiences were another highlight, with meals that showcased the diversity and richness of local ingredients. From hearty soups and stews to fresh vegetables and fragrant rice, each meal was a celebration of the region’s culinary heritage.

The local guides played a crucial role in enhancing the experience, sharing their knowledge and stories about the land and its people. Their insights added depth to the journey, making it not just a physical trek but also a cultural exploration.

As I reflect on my stay at Panhou Retreat, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to experience such a unique and enriching adventure. The retreat is a place where one can truly disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with nature and oneself. It is a reminder of the beauty and diversity of our planet and the importance of preserving it for future generations.

Panhou Retreat is a hidden gem in the Song Chay mountains, offering an experience that is both profound and transformative. Whether you are a seasoned trekker or someone looking for a peaceful escape, Panhou Retreat has something to offer. My time there was unforgettable, and I look forward to returning someday to explore more of this magical place.

Panhou Reterat - suite
Panhou Retreat - dining room

Contact us for more information and to book a stay at Panhou Retreat, Vietnam: